Out-of-control rocket due to crash into moon

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A rocket that has been orbiting for almost decade and reportedly the size of school bus will crash into the moon today, according to astronomers.

An out-of-control rocket part the size of a school bus will smash into the Moon on Friday.

According to astronomers, a rocket booster will hit the lunar surface after spending nearly eight years tumbling through space.

The remaining spaceship will shatter into the far side of the moon at 9,300 km/h. It may take weeks or months for satellite images to confirm the impact of the blast.

Scientists expect the device will create a hole 10 to 20 metres across and send moon dust drifting hundreds of kilometres across the area.

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It will be the first time a man-made object has crashed into another space body without being aimed there.

It was first spotted by US mathematician and physicist Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.

He reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched from Florida in February 2015.

However, Mr Gray later retracted his claim and said the rocket part most likely belonged to China who launched their spacecraft in 2014.

The asteroid tracker said it might be the third stage of a Chinese spacecraft as part of a test mission to send a sample capsule to the moon and back.

Chinese ministry officials have denied the accusation and said the upper stage of the rocket returned to Earth’s atmosphere and burned up.

However, China launched two similar missions — the test flight and lunar sample return mission in 2020. US observers believe China is mixing up the two operations.

The US Space Command confirmed on Tuesday that the Chinese upper stage from the 2014 lunar mission never deorbited. However, it could not determine the country of origin for the device about to collide with the moon.

“We focus on objects closer to the Earth,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Mr Gray said he’s confident the rocket belongs to China.

“I’ve become a little bit more cautious of such matters,” the physicist said.

“But I really just don’t see any way it could be anything else.”

Harvard and Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics Jonathan McDowell backs Mr Gray’s evaluation, but states: “The effect will be the same. It’ll leave yet another small crater on the moon.”

After initially believing the soon to be collision was Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Mr Gray re-evaluated his assessment after a NASA engineer from Jet Propulsion Laboratory argued his case. Based on the data received, Mr Gray is convinced that the rocket is from China.

JPL’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies supports Mr Gray’s revised assessment. A team from the University of Arizona detected a segment of the Chinese rocket from the light reflected from its paint, during telescope observations of the careening cylinder.

Mr Gray said SpaceX or the Chinese have not contacted him to question his assessments

“It’s not a SpaceX problem, nor is it a China problem. Nobody is particularly careful about what they do with junk at this sort of orbit,” Gray said.

According to McDowell, tracking deep space mission debris can be difficult. The moon’s gravity can change an object’s path as it passes, creating uncertainty.

With no available database, McDowell stated, aside from the ones “cobbled together” by himself, Gray and a couple others.

“We are now in an era where many countries and private companies are putting stuff in deep space, so it’s time to start to keep track of it,” McDowell said.

“Right now there’s no one, just a few fans in their spare time.”

with The US Sun



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