Rocket on its way to impact the Moon – do you see the impact with the Earth?

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March 4

  • Tanya Banner

    ByTanja Banner

    to conclude

The ejected part of the rocket moves on a collision course with the moon. But will the March 4 impact be visible from Earth? Questions and answers.

Frankfurt – Next Friday (March 4, 2022), the ejected part of the rocket will be placed on moon* Autumn. According to experts, there is a strong possibility that this is the Chinese stage of the rocket launched by the Chang’e 5-T1 lunar mission in October 2014. China denied initial reports*, which say that this is a Chinese rocket. However, experts suggest that this is a case of confusion with the mission of the same name. First it was said SpaceX rocket stage crashes into the moon*, but later experts corrected this statement.

The experts calculated the impact of the runaway rocket stage on March 4, 2022 at 13:25. The rocket part will strike in the middle of the day – hence the question arises: is it possible to see this rare event from Earth? Answers to the most important questions about the influence on the moon.

Do you see a rocket falling to the Moon from Earth?

No, the impact of the rocket on the Moon will not be visible from Earth. And there are several reasons for this: Experts have calculated that the escaping stage of the rocket will hit the edge of the approximately 570-kilometer Hertzsprung crater. This crater is on the far side of the Moon, which is never visible from Earth. But even if the rocket hit somewhere else: on March 4, 2022, the Moon is illuminated by about five percent of the sunlight (full moon*March 18 only) – chances of you being able to see the impact point should be low.

Can probes in orbit around the moon see the impact of a rocket?

There are currently three spacecraft orbiting the Moon:

Name/country in orbit with
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (NASA)2009
Queqiao (China)2018 (not directly in lunar orbit)
Chandrayan-2 (India)2019

So far, there is only official information from the US space agency NASA*, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been in orbit around the Moon since 2009. She cannot observe the impact live, but will try to locate and photograph the crater formed as soon as possible after the impact. The earliest LRO will be able to see the Hertzsprung crater about two weeks after the impact and then photograph the impact site. They will have a resolution of about one meter per pixel. It is not yet known if Chinese and Indian space probes will also search for the crater.

Will a rocket strike harm the Moon in any way?

No, the moon will not be hit by the rocket stage. It has survived numerous impacts since its formation, as evidenced by its cratered surface. Only on the side of the Moon facing the Earth, about 300,000 craters with a diameter of more than one kilometer are known. Behind most of these craters, other celestial bodies – asteroids* or comets – responsible for hitting the moon. Compared to these sometimes gigantic craters, a dropped rocket that hit the Moon on March 4th would leave behind a rather small crater: experts suggest that it will have a diameter of ten to 30 meters and a depth of about two to three meters.

in The impact of a rocket stage from China on the moon*reminds of NASA LCROSS probe* which the US space agency deliberately crashed on the moon in 2009. The probe crashed into a crater near the South Pole, the bottom of which is constantly in the shade. Mission Objective: The impact should kick up lunar dust from the crater and give researchers a chance to find out if there is water ice in the crater. The mission was a complete success: scientists were able to find signs of water ice loosened as a result of the impact.

What does science say about the impact on the moon?

Science is divided over the impact of a rocket stage on the moon: on the one hand, this is the first unplanned fall of a piece of space debris on the moon – an event that can change the moon and shows how far space debris has gone. has already entered the solar system. As researcher Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona in Tucson found out, more than 150 objects revolve around the moon – and at least 90 percent of them are debris, the journal Nature Reddy quotes.

Rocket part size12 meters long
Rocket part weight4500 kg
impact speedabout 9300 km/h
Impact site on the moonOn the edge of the Hertzsprung crater (far side of the moon)

On the other hand, hitting a part of a rocket on the moon is also a possibility, as shown by the NASA LCROSS mission and a look even further into the past. The impact of space probes on the moon “was partly aimed at doing science,” explains Ulrich Köhler of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) dpa. During NASA’s Apollo era, it was even part of the mission concept. “Then the lunar modules were detached and put on a collision course,” says Koehler. The vibration of the lunar soil was measured by a seismometer on the Moon, from which it was possible to draw conclusions about the properties of the lunar crust.

Looking back: space travel crashed their probes on the moon

This was also done on later lunar missions. “The goal was to geochemically capture the resulting ejecta cloud — for example, to be able to detect ice molecules in isolated craters,” says Koehler, who suggests that the impending collision could also be “useful.” “The lunar soil has matured over millions of years thanks to the solar wind, cosmic rays and impacts of micrometeorites. The collision now exposes practically pure material – and this is also on the far side of the moon, which has hardly been studied, ”says a planetary scientist from the DLR Institute for Planetary Research in Berlin-Adlershof.

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Planetologist Paul Hein (University of Colorado Boulder) sees the unintended impact of a rocket part on the moon as a possibility: together with colleagues, he has been trying for a decade to figure out how deep the lunar crater in which the NASA LCROSS probe crashed, he explains on The Conversation portal. “A random experiment with an impending catastrophe will give planetary scientists the opportunity to observe a very similar crater in daylight. It will be like seeing the LCROSS crater for the first time in detail,” Haynes says. (Tanya Banner) * is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.

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