The rocket should hit the moon on Friday

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According to several scientists, part of the rocket will fall on the moon on Friday. Experts see this as a great opportunity.

Earlier this year, Bill Gray received a bug report from his program. The scientist himself programmed the software and has long been using it to track space from the US state of Maine – asteroids, space debris and other objects close to Earth.

However, the software simply didn’t want to give him a long-term route for the rocket. “Then I realized that my software was complaining because it couldn’t project the flight path of this object after March 4,” Gray told the Washington Post. “And she couldn’t because the rocket hit the moon.”

Part of the rocket will hit the moon on March 4 (Friday), Jonathan McDowell, professor of astronomy at the elite Harvard University in the US, tweeted in January. “Interesting, but not that important.” Countless scientists and space enthusiasts around the world now see things differently, after all, this will be the first known unplanned fall of a rocket part on the moon. “This unique phenomenon represents an exciting opportunity for research,” NASA said in a statement.

What kind of rocket?

However, one central question has not yet been clarified: what exactly should hit the moon? Researcher Gray and NASA initially talked about the SpaceX rocket part. This is the stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which was launched in 2015 from the Cape Canaveral launch site and delivered the Earth observation satellite Deep Space Climate Observatory into space. However, after that, the rocket stage did not have enough fuel to return to Earth, so it has been in space ever since.

However, Gray and NASA soon corrected their statements after evaluating additional data: after all, it was not a SpaceX rocket, but part of an old Chinese rocket, probably the Chang’e 5-T1 launch vehicle. The mission launched from Earth into space in 2014. This conclusion was made based on the analysis of the object’s orbits in 2016 and 2017.

However, China denied these reports. “China has taken note of the expert analysis and media reports on the matter,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Beijing Foreign Ministry. However, according to their own conclusions, the missile in question burned out.

The impact will not be measurable

In any case, it will not be possible to observe or measure the impact on the far side of the Moon. There is currently no seismometer on the Moon that can measure the impact. There are also no telescopes or probes that can directly track the crash. However, in retrospect, the Indian orbiter and one from NASA may be looking for a fresh crater. According to NASA, this could take weeks or even months.

This would be the first known unplanned impact of a part of a rocket with the Moon, but not the first impact at all. “On the contrary,” says Ulrich K√∂hler of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). “Some of them were specifically aimed at science.” During NASA’s Apollo era, it was even part of the mission concept.

“The lunar modules were then disconnected and put on a collision course,” says Koehler. “The trembling of the lunar surface was then measured by seismometers left on the Moon. Like a little moonquake, so to speak.” From this – together with numerous moonquakes and natural influences – it is possible to draw conclusions about the properties of the lunar crust, says a planetary geologist from the DLR Institute for Planetary Research in Berlin-Adlershof.

Barely explored the far side of the moon

Later missions to the moon were also eventually successful. “The goal was to geochemically capture the resulting ejecta cloud – for example, to be able to detect ice molecules in isolated craters.” “The lunar soil has matured over millions of years thanks to the solar wind, cosmic rays and impacts of micrometeorites. The impact now exposes virtually untouched material—and on the far side of the moon, too, which has not been explored much.”

For scientist Gray, who was one of the first to predict the impending collision, the unplanned crash is also a sign that space debris trajectories would need to be monitored much better and more systematically to avoid such “mess”, as well as possible dangerous situations in the spacecraft to avoid in the future. He is annoyed that he first misidentified the object as a SpaceX rocket stage. “It annoys me that I didn’t get it right, but I’m still very interested to see what happens.”

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