The Moon has one more crater. A stage of a rocket that has wandered through space for years crashed into it on Friday, according to experts, but since it could not be observed directly, it will take patience to see it in images.
The impact occurred at 12:25 GMT on the far side of the Moon, according to astronomer Bill Gray, who was the first to identify the impending collision.
The cylindrical object was traveling at more than 9,000 km/h and is likely to have caused a crater “10 to 20 meters in diameter”, he told AFP.
Its trajectory had been calculated by observations made by telescopes on Earth.
“We had a lot of data on this object,” said Bill Gray, who estimates that it hit the Moon “this morning.”
The identification of the rocket in question was the subject of debate because no one officially deals with recording and tracking space debris in deep space.
Gray, creator of the software used by the observation programs funded by the POTmonitors them so that they are not confused with asteroids and, in this way, time is not wasted studying them uselessly.
The wreckage was initially thought to be from a rocket SpaceX but in the end it was deduced that it was a Chinese ship, specifically a stage of the Long March rocket, which took off in 2014 for a mission called Chang’e 5-T1, as part of the country’s lunar exploration program.
Beijing denied it and assured that the stage had “entered safely into the earth’s atmosphere” and had “completely burned”.
But according to Gray, China confused two missions with similar names and was actually talking about a rocket launched much later.
In any case, the crater can only be seen through NASA’s LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) probe or India’s Chandrayaan-2, both in orbit around this star.
The US space agency confirmed in January that it wanted to find the crater, but warned that the operation could take “weeks”.
According to Gray, the two probes can observe the entire lunar region once a month.
It’s not unusual for rocket stages to be left behind in the cosmos, but it’s the first time an unintended collision with the Moon has been identified.
In the past, rocket stages have been launched at the star for scientific purposes.