Has the mystery of the moon’s double crater been solved? Spent Chinese rocket carrying mysterious payload crashes • Record

Has the mystery of the moon’s double crater been solved?  Spent Chinese rocket carrying mysterious payload crashes • Record

Last year, not one but two craters unexpectedly appeared on the moon, making us all wonder: What could be causing this?

According to a study published this week, the craters were created by the collision of a spent Chinese rocket booster with the moon’s surface – with potentially additional payload.

In March 2022, astronomers warned that a piece of space junk was on track to collide with the Moon. Some speculated that the object was a leftover part of the China National Space Administration’s Long March 3C rocket that sent the Chang’e 5-T1 spacecraft around the moon in 2014.

However, China’s Foreign Ministry denied claims that the debris was its rocket, and said the mission’s upper stage had disintegrated in the Earth’s atmosphere. Confusingly, it turned out that MP Wang Wenbin was referring to another missile that launched the Chang’e-5, a different probe.

It was difficult to confirm exactly what hit the moon, because space agencies do not usually monitor debris drifting beyond certain altitudes. Some believe it may have been a piece of one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. Astronomers were left even more puzzled when images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft showed that the impact had punched two holes in the moon’s surface.

Double trouble…the two new craters on the moon. Click to enlarge. Source: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

Now, a team led by scientists at the University of Arizona in the US claims in published research that they have conclusive evidence proving that the impact was indeed the upper stage of the Long March 3C launch vehicle behind the Chang’e 5-T1 mission. Furthermore, the part was likely carrying an unknown additional load on one end of its body.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a double crater,” said Tanner Campbell, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of Arizona.

“We know that in the case of Chang’e 5 T1, its impact was almost direct, and to get these two craters that are roughly the same size, you need two roughly equal masses that are far apart from each other.”

Another indication that the object was carrying something extra was the way it fell through space. Instead of oscillating, like a normal rocket booster, it rotated in a stable manner. Academics believe it was carrying something to balance the weight of its engines, each of which is said to weigh 1,200 pounds (544.3 kg) without fuel.

“We know the booster had a tooling deck mounted on its top end, but it only weighed about 60 pounds or so,” Campbell said.

“We did a torque balance analysis, which showed that that amount of weight would have moved the missile’s center of gravity by a few inches — not nearly enough to account for its stable rotation. That’s what leads us to believe there must have been something more installed in the space,” he added. the introduction.

But what exactly the payload is is still unknown. It may have been built to support the rocket’s chassis, or it may have been designed as a separate device for another purpose. Researchers believe that this smash shows how important it is to monitor extraterrestrial space waste, especially with the increasing rate of lunar missions.

“There is a big push at both the government and commercial levels to go to the moon,” said Roberto Furfaro, co-author of the study and professor of systems and industrial engineering at the University of Arizona.

“Once we put more and more objects on the Moon, it becomes very important that we not only track the object, but also understand what they will do once they get there.” ®

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