In an unprecedented display of cosmic trash, a skewed rocket object will smash into the far side of the moon on Friday, the first time a spacecraft has accidentally hit the lunar surface.
spent rocket booster, It is believed to be part of China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission which swung around the moon in 2014, is expected to hit Hertzsprung crater at 12.25 pm GMT, although the exact time and location are unclear.
Traveling at speeds of more than 5,500 miles per hour (2.5 kilometers per second), the 4-ton rocket’s body will plow the surface at a shallow angle, scattering debris and ripping apart a volcanic crater projected to reach 20 to 30 meters (65 ft) to 100 Presented).
It highlights how space junk now extends beyond Earth, where the United States is already tracking more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, said Dr. Vishnu Reddy, the assistant professor at the University of Arizona whose team helped identify the object.
“Things have hit the moon in the past, but they were basically intentional collisions, or we tried to land and crashed on the surface,” Reddy said. “This is an unintended missile effect.”
Astronomers won’t be able to directly observe the impact, but scientists hope that images of the crash site can be captured soon after by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, both orbiting the moon. The Chinese Chang’e 4 lander, which Landed on the far side of the moon In 2019, it’s a long way from watching the scene.
The natural hit of meteorites has left the moon punctured with half a billion craters the same size or larger than the ones a booster would make. But the lunar surface also bears the scars of deliberately crashed rocket stages, and lunar missions that compress dust rather than settle on it.
During the Apollo era, massive Saturn 5 rocket objects were directed to the surface so that instruments placed on the surface could monitor the resulting shock waves to analyze the interior of the Moon.
Since then, more and more exotic materials have joined the trash left by American astronauts. In 1999, sent a special lunar mission The ashes of astronomer Eugene Shoemaker To the “crater of eternal darkness” near the south pole of the moon. Three years ago, Israel’s Beresheet probe crashed on the surface, scattering thousands of small missiles tardigrades. In spite of Hope they survivemany scholars believe that they were turned into mush.
Reddy’s group has cataloged nearly 200 objects drifting in the “lunar space” between Earth and the Moon. The booster was It was originally thought to be part of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Launched in 2015, but Reddy and his students mentioned Its optical spectra – the wavelengths of light it reflects – more closely match those of the Chinese Long March 3C rocket that launched the Chang’e 5-T1 mission a year ago.
Reddy believes that the unintended impact on the moon should focus attention on the growing issue of space debris. “People realize it’s really bad in Earth orbit, but now we’re slowly putting debris into lunar space,” he said. “We got it wrong around the Earth already, let’s not do that around the moon.”
However, there is more at stake than cosmic trash. According to Reddy, there are national security implications given how difficult it is to locate and track objects far from Earth. “What can our opponents put into the lunar lunar space that we are not aware of?” He said. “You can track something 4 inches across Earth’s orbit, but do you track something small in lunar space? Forget it.”
Chris Newman, professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University, called the impending impact a “warning science” given plans to return humans to the moon. “Obviously when we start putting people on the moon permanently, that’s something we have to think about,” he said.
Anyone worried about a rocket body hitting the moon should be more concerned about biological contamination, though that’s a small risk, he emphasized, David Rothry, professor of Earth sciences at the Open University. “Maybe very few of the microbes you accidentally carry will survive, or you will survive the shock,” he said. “Another crater on the moon you don’t have to worry about.”