AN OUT-OF-CONTROL rocket part the size of a school bus has likely smashed into the Moon’s surface by now.
According to astronomers, a rocket booster was set to hit the lunar surface at around 7.25am ET (12:25 GMT) after spending nearly eight years tumbling through space.
It was likely the first time a manmade object has crashed into another space body without being aimed there, but we won’t know that it hit the Moon for sure until two satellites that orbit the Moon pass over the possible impact site and photograph any crater that resulted from the collision, the BBC reported.
The rocket part was first spotted by Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.
He reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched from Florida by Elon Musk’s team in February 2015.
However, Bill later retracted his claim and said the rocket part most likely belonged to China. China has since denied the accusation.
Read our rocket moon crash live blog for the latest news and updates…
How old is the moon?
The moon is assumed to have originated as a result of a big object or series of objects colliding with Earth, with part of the material blasting into space and becoming our lunar neighbor.
Scientists investigated old zircon pieces after Apollo astronauts returned lunar rocks for study, they were able to establish that this occurred around 4.5billion years ago.
What was Project A119? continued
The project was never completed because Air Force authorities determined that its hazards exceeded its advantages and because a Moon landing would definitely be a more popular achievement in the eyes of both the American and foreign publics.
If carried out, the idea may have resulted in the militarization of space.
The Soviet Union attempted a similar scheme (Project E-4) but it never materialized.
What was Project A119?
The United States Air Force devised Project A119, also known as A Study of Lunar Research Flights, as a top-secret concept in 1958.
The project’s goal was to explode a nuclear weapon on the Moon, which would aid in solving some of planetary astronomy and astrogeology’s riddles.
The flash of explosive light might have been dimly visible to humans on Earth if the explosive device had detonated on the surface rather than in a lunar crater.
This was intended as a show of power to improve public morale in the United States’ capabilities, which was required after the Soviet Union grabbed an early lead in the Space Race and was working on a comparable project as well.
Does the moon have quakes?
These are caused by the Earth’s gravitational pull, according to Space-Facts.com.
On their journeys to the Moon, astronauts employed seismographs and discovered that minor moonquakes occurred many kilometers beneath the surface, creating ruptures and fissures.
The moon doesn’t have an atmosphere
This implies that the Moon’s surface is exposed to cosmic rays, meteorites, and solar winds, and experiences extreme temperature swings.
Because there is no atmosphere on the Moon, no sound can be heard, and the sky is constantly pitch black.
How many people have been on the moon?
Twelve people, all as part of the Apollo program, have stepped on the Moon.
Those who have walked on the moon are:
- Neil Armstrong
- Buzz Aldrin
- Pete Conrad
- Alan Bean
- Alan Shepard
- Edgar Mitchell
- David Scott
- James Irwin
- John Young
- Charles Duke
- Gene Cernan
- Harrison Schmidtt
As of January 2022, four of them are still alive: Aldrin, Scott, Duke, and Schmitt.
The moon has weaker gravity
Because the Moon’s gravity is substantially less than Earth’s due to its lower mass, you would only weigh roughly a sixth (16.5 percent) of what you would on Earth.
This is how the lunar explorers were able to leap so far into the air.
What is the moon made of? continued
The crust that covers the lunar surface is around 42 miles (70 kilometers) thick on average.
Due to all of the huge hits that the moon has received, the outermost section of the crust is fragmented and jumbled, with the shattered zone giving way to intact material below a depth of around 6 miles (9.6 km).
The lunar surface is around 43 percent oxygen, 20 percent silicon, 19 percent magnesium, 10 percent iron, 3 percent calcium, 3 percent aluminum, 0.42 percent chromium, 0.18 percent titanium, and 0.12 percent manganese by weight.
What is the moon made of?
The moon’s core is most likely quite tiny, accounting for just one to two percent of the moon’s mass and measuring around 420 miles (680 kilometers) in diameter, according to Space.com.
It’s probably primarily iron, although it might also contain a lot of sulfur and other metals.
The moon’s rocky mantle is 825 miles (1,330 kilometers) deep and made up of dense iron and magnesium-rich rocks.
For more than a billion years, magma from the mantle rose to the surface and erupted volcanically, from at least four billion years ago to less than three billion years ago.
Impact on the Moon
The collision of the rocket booster and the Moon was expected to produce a cloud of debris and leave behind a small crater.
However, no serious damage was expected to occur.
Where did the rocket hit?
The collision occurred on the far side of the Moon.
The one-tonne hunk of space junk was traveling at around 2.6 km per second.
Were you be able to see the impact?
On March 4, the rocket component was projected to impact the Moon, leaving a 65-foot-diameter crater on the surface.
Unfortunately, because the falling rocket portion hit the Moon’s far side — the side that faces away from Earth – the collision was not visible live.
Instead, scientists will examine the aftermath of the disaster using photographs captured by spacecraft such as Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Who is Bill Gray?
Bill Gray created the Guide astrometry program, which is used by professional and amateur astronomers all around the world to track NEOs, asteroids, minor planets, and comets.
He also said in January that in early March, the top stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket would crash with the Moon.
The forecast sparked a whirlwind of media attention, much of it negative of Elon Musk and his private space company.
Gray admitted that he made a mistake in his first identification of a piece of space debris named WE0913A by him and other astronomers in 2015, saying that the debris belongs to China.
Man-made items on the moon
There have been over 800 items found on the moon, according to inventory taken by NASA in 2012.
Among those items are:
- Golf balls
- Barf bags
- Cosmic ray detectors
- And many others
How quickly was the debris traveling?
The lump of metal was predicted to produce a 65-foot-long crater, approximately the size of a tractor-trailer, and break into who-knows-how-many pieces as it traveled at an estimated 3.3 miles per second.
Rocket body company, continued
Bill Gray, the manager of Project Pluto, which provides both commercial and free astronomy software to amateur and professional astronomers, is one of the persons who has made the China link, per Space.com.
“There really is no good reason at this point to think the object is anything other than the Chang’e 5-T1 booster,” Gray told Inside Outer Space last month.
“Anybody claiming otherwise has a pretty large hill of evidence to overcome.”
What company did the rocket body belong to?
The top stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in 2015 was first considered to be the rocket body.
The object, however, is now linked to China’s Long March 3C rocket, which launched China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission in 2014, according to Space.com.
Chang’e 5-T1 circled beyond the moon and returned to Earth to test the Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission’s atmospheric re-entry capabilities in 2020.
On behalf of the Luxembourg-based business LuxSpace, Chang’e 5-T1 carried a secondary payload of scientific equipment in the upper stage of the Long March rocket.
SpaceX’s accomplishments include:
- The first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach Earth orbit
- The first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft
- The first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station
- The first vertical take-off and vertical propulsive landing for an orbital rocket
- The first reuse of an orbital rocket
- The first private company to send astronauts to orbit and to the International Space Station
- The Falcon 9 series of rockets has been flown over a hundred times by SpaceX.
When was SpaceX founded?
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known widely as SpaceX, is a Hawthorne, California-based aerospace manufacturer, space transportation services provider, and communications company.
Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the purpose of lowering space transportation costs so that Mars may be colonized.
The Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, as well as various rocket engines, the Cargo Dragon, crew spacecraft, and Starlink communications satellites, are all manufactured by SpaceX.
Who is Elon Musk?
Born June 28, 1971, Elon Musk is a business mogul and entrepreneur.
He is the co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI, as well as the founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer of SpaceX.
Musk is also an early-stage investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc., and the creator of The Boring Company.
He is the world’s wealthiest individual, according to both the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and the Forbes real-time billionaires list, with an estimated net worth of roughly $224billion as of February 2022.
How far away is the Moon?
The average distance between Earth and the Moon is about 238,855 miles miles (384,400 kilometers), according to NASA.
That means it is about 30 Earths away.
There is a possibility of biocontamination at the crash site, according to David Rothery, a professor of planetary geosciences at The Open University in the United Kingdom.
This is because rocket parts aren’t sterile when launched.
“Most microbes will have died but maybe not all. They’re probably not going to reproduce but it’s a very small risk,” he told CNN.
Crater won’t be the first on the Moon
If the rocket booster creates a crater on the Moon from the impact, it won’t be the only crater on the Moon, CNN noted.
The Moon has no protective atmosphere, so impact craters occur naturally when it’s hit by objects like asteroids regularly.
NASA prepared for ‘unique event’
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter monitored the moon’s exosphere for any changes as a result of the impact of the rocket booster to the moon, Space.com reported.
LRO “will not be in a position to observe the impact as it happens. However, the mission team is assessing if observations can be made to any changes to the lunar environment associated with the impact and later identify the crater formed by the impact,” NASA officials said in a statement given to Inside Outer Space and cited by Space.com
“This unique event presents an exciting research opportunity,” the officials added.
“Following the impact, the mission can use its cameras to identify the impact site, comparing older images to images taken after the impact. The search for the impact crater will be challenging and might take weeks to months.”
European Space Agency commented
The European Space Agency commented on the upcoming collision of the rocket booster and the Moon’s surface.
“This still-evolving finding underscores the need for enhanced space tracking, and greater data sharing between spacecraft operators, launch providers, and the astronomy and space surveillance communities,” the agency wrote.