The Chinese missile that collided with the moon was carrying a mysterious object

The Chinese missile that collided with the moon was carrying a mysterious object

A piece of man-made space junk slammed into the far side of the moon last year, leaving scientists initially baffled. After some astronomical detective work, new research suggests it was most likely a Chinese missile with an unknown object attached to it.

On March 4, 2022, a mysterious object known as WE0913A slammed into the moon’s surface, leaving behind an unusually shaped double crater. While it was initially suspected to be part of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, later evidence suggested it was a booster as part of the Chang’e 5-T1 lunar mission. But China denied any involvement.

Now, scientists at the University of Arizona, the California Institute of Technology, the Pluto Project, and the Planetary Science Institute hope to solve the mystery.

They plotted the object’s path using ground-based telescope observations, and concluded that WE0913A is part of the body of the Chinese Long March rocket from the Chang’e 5-T1 mission that launched in 2014.

Furthermore, they also found evidence that the abandoned rocket stage was likely carrying an “undeclared additional payload.”

The unusual double crater appears to be the result of a rocket booster that collided with the moon in March 2022.

The unusual double crater appears to be the result of a rocket booster that collided with the moon in March 2022.

Image source: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

The team made this claim with two lines of evidence. First, the object did not appear to be swaying as it fell to the moon’s surface, but rather was rotating in a fairly orderly rolling fashion. They say this indicates that the rocket stage was balanced with an oversized counterweight for the two engines, each weighing 544 kilograms (1,200 pounds).

“Something that’s been in space for as long as it’s subject to forces from Earth’s gravity, the moon and sunlight. So you’d expect it to wobble a little bit, especially when you consider that the body of the rocket is a big ’empty shell’ with a heavy engine on one side.” But this was just rolling from end to end, in a very stable way,” Tanner Campbell, the study’s first author and a doctoral student in the University of Arizona’s Department of Aerospace Engineering, said in a statement.

“We know the booster had an instrument deck mounted on its upper end, but it weighed about 60 pounds (27 kilograms) or so. We did a torque balance analysis, which showed that that amount of weight would have moved the center of the rocket by gravity,” he added. A few inches – not nearly enough to explain its stable rotation. “This leads us to believe that there must be something more textured at the front.”

Second, researchers were also amazed by the strange overlapping craters it formed, consisting of an eastern crater about 18 meters (59 feet) in diameter and a western crater about 16 meters (52 feet) in diameter.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a double hole,” Campbell explained. “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.”

As for the undisclosed payload, Campbell and the team are not waiting for any answers.

“We obviously have no idea what that might be, maybe some additional support structures, additional tools, or whatever,” he said.

“We’ll probably never know.”

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *