What To Know About The Out-Of-Control Rocket Set To Hit The Moon Today
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A rocket stage set to crash into the moon today has sparked disputes about who is responsible for the unintentional collision.
Much like the comet in Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio's Don't Look Up, the out-of-control object is on track for a direct hit – though thankfully not with Earth.
The rocket stage, designated WE0913A, is set to impact the far side of the moon at 12.25pm GMT (7.25am EST) and, similarly to the comet, there's little scientists can do about it now – though this time not because of denial on behalf of politicians.
It's anticipated to strike somewhere near the 354-mile-wide Hertzsprung Crater, out of range of ground telescopes and likely out of immediate view of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), though a missions spokesperson told Space.com the LRO will seek out the crash site once the collision has taken place.
Though the crash appears to be certainty, the story behind how it found its way to the moon remains more clouded.
Astronomer Bill Gray, who runs the Pluto Project program, which tracks faraway space objects, previously linked the stage to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite in February 2015, however a deeper analysis found holes in this theory.
In a correction cited by Space.com, Gray said the orbit of the rocket stage does not match that of the SpaceX rocket, and in fact more closely resembles the orbit of the upper stage of the rocket that launched China's Chang'e 5-T1 mission in 2014.
Here is Bill Gray's map of the predicted impact site on the Moon pic.twitter.com/wr3XkZQrW5— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) March 4, 2022
This latter suggestion has been supported by astronomer Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, however China has denied the mission is responsible.
In a statement addressing the matter, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: 'According to China's monitoring, the upper stage of the rocket related to the ... mission entered into Earth's atmosphere and completely burned up.'
The dispute remains unresolved, and as such the body behind the fast-approaching object remains a mystery. National Geographic reports the object, which measures roughly 10 feet across and 41 feet tall, has been floating around since at least 2015. It is set to be completely destroyed upon hitting the moon, at which time it will also create a new crater in the lunar surface between 60 and 100 feet wide, and launch a plume of sharp, corrosive dust into orbit.
The crash is not set to pose a threat to any infrastructure on the moon.
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Topics: News, Space, Technology, SpaceX