Out-of-control rocket crashing into the moon comes from China, not SpaceX

A rocket set to slam into the moon next month, initially identified as belonging to SpaceX, has now been identified as a Chinese rocket.

Last month, an amateur astronomer, Bill Gray, suggested the rogue object was likely a spent SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from a 2015 launch and was going to collide into the Moon on 4 March.

He now believes the object is not a SpaceX Falcon 9 part, but an old Chinese rocket instead.

Bill Gray who has been tracking asteroids as part of Project Pluto, has been following this space object since March of 2015. 

The object was first picked up by the Catalina Sky Survey, a program that uses telescopes near Tucson, Arizona to scan the sky for potentially dangerous asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth.

But unlike a typical asteroid, astronomers noticed that this object wasn’t orbiting the sun but was actually orbiting the Earth, suggesting that it was manmade space junk.

Gray and others mistakenly thought the object was the top portion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that had launched in February 2015.

However, Gray admits that identifying space objects can be tricky. ‘I had pretty good circumstantial evidence for the identification, but nothing conclusive,’ Gray wrote in a new blog post, first reported by Ars Technica.

A closer look at the object’s history and additional information from Nasa has now convinced Gray that the object is a leftover piece of a Chinese rocket from one of China’s moon missions.

Gray was alerted by Jon Giorgini, an engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who keeps track of active space missions, that it was unlikely that the object was a SpaceX rocket part.

On closer examination, they found that China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission, launched in October 2014 is now the best guess for this mystery object. China is notorious for releasing very little information about its space missions. 

In December, Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites nearly collided with the Chinese Space Station twice this year. The close calls led to criticism of Musk’s internet satellite company, Starlink.

Despite the confusion about the object’s identity, Gray says this is just further proof we need more information about rocket boosters that go to deep space. As of now, no formal entity tracks leftover rockets that go into deep space trajectories. 

Gray told tech site The Verge that it would be better if those who launch deep space rockets had to report the last known location of their vehicles, to make it easier to track and identify the lost parts. 

The rogue rocket booster poses no threat when it’s supposed to collide with the moon’s surface next month. It’s expected to crash into a crater on the far side of the moon known as Hertzsprung. 

While there’s no way to watch the crash take place, future moon orbiting spacecraft might be able to get a glimpse of the impact.

Source: Link


  1. I wonder if all the dimwits who piled on to Elon Musk when this was initially reported as as part of Falcon 9 will now direct their harsh criticism at China.

    Nah, probably not.

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