A discarded rocket part will hit the moon today. Nasa has a plan to study the resulting crater. The news ticker keeps you up to date.
- A discarded rocket part is on a collision course with the moon*. Apparently it is not a rocket stage SpaceX*, but about a rocket China*.
- Today (03/04/2022) the rocket is supposed to hit the moon, the impact was calculated for 1:25 p.m.
- What are the effects of the rocket hit on the moon, what does science say and can you see the impact on earth? This news ticker answers the most important questions.
>>> Update news ticker
Update from Friday, March 4th, 2022, 9 a.m.: At 1:25 p.m. today, a discarded part of the rocket will hit the moon for the first time. Experts assume that it is a rocket stage from a Chinese moon mission – it was first suspected that an old rocket stage from SpaceX was heading for the moon, but that has long been ruled out.
In the past, parts of rockets and probes on the moon were intentionally thrown onto the moon – among other things, water was searched for in deep, shadowy craters on the moon (Nasa mission “LCROSS”) or the interior of the moon was examined with the help of lunar seismometers. During NASA’s “Apollo” missions to the moon, it was even part of the mission that parts fell onto the moon. But the rocket that hits the moon today is the first unintentional fall.
This causes a great deal of excitement in science: some are happy that they are getting new data from the moon, others object that humanity must be careful not to pollute the orbit to the moon too much – but in the coming ones years again people are supposed to land on the earth’s satellite. Then space debris in orbits around the moon would be potentially dangerous.
Out of Control Rocket: Today it will hit the moon and make a crater
Update from Thursday, March 3rd, 2022, 10.30 a.m.: When an old rocket stage crashes on the moon on Friday (March 4th, 2022) at 1:25 p.m., numerous researchers will be thinking about it, but they will not be able to see the impact because it will take place on the far side of the moon (details can be found here further down in the article). Still, you have some idea of what’s going to happen – after all, it’s not the first time a piece of rocket has fallen on the moon, it’s just the first time it’s happened unintentionally. “A moment after the rocket touches the lunar surface, a shock wave will propagate down the length of the missile at several kilometers per second. Within milliseconds, the rear end of the rocket’s envelope is obliterated by metal fragments exploding in all directions,” says planetary scientist Paul Hayne on The Conversation portal.
|Rocket part size||12 meters long|
|Rocket part weight||4500 kilograms|
|speed at impact||around 9300 km/h|
|Impact site on the moon||At the rim of Hertzsprung Crater (back side of the moon)|
A second shock wave will propagate downward into the powdery top layer of the lunar surface (the regolith). The impact heats up dust and rock and creates a “white-hot flash”. This would be visible from space “if a spacecraft happened to be nearby at the time,” Hayne explains. Vaporized rock and metal will then spread out from the impact site in a cloud, throwing dust and sand-sized particles into the sky. Within the next few minutes, the ejected material rains down again on the moon and falls into the smoldering crater and its surroundings. “There will be almost nothing left of the missile that crashed,” Hayne said. On the other hand, the NASA probe “Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter” (LRO) will examine the impact crater more closely in the coming weeks (see below in the article).
Rocket on a collision course with the moon: answers to the most important questions
First report from Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022: Frankfurt – Next Friday (March 4th, 2022) a discarded part of the rocket will fall on the moon. According to experts, there is a high probability that this is a Chinese rocket stage that the “Chang’e 5-T1” moon mission launched in October 2014. China denied initial reports*, according to which it is said to be a Chinese missile. However, experts assume that this is a case of confusion with a similarly named mission. At first it was said a SpaceX rocket stage hit the moon*, but experts later corrected this statement.
Experts have calculated the impact of the runaway rocket stage for March 4, 2022 at 1:25 p.m. The rocket part will hit in the middle of the day – this begs the question: can the rare event be seen from Earth?
Answers to the most important questions about the impact on the moon:
Can you see the rocket impact on the moon from Earth today?
No, the impact of the rocket on the moon will not be visible from Earth. And there are several reasons for this: Experts have calculated that the runaway rocket stage will hit the edge of the approximately 570-kilometer Hertzsprung crater. This crater is on the far side of the moon, which is never visible from Earth. But even if the rocket were to hit a different spot: On March 4, 2022, the moon is only illuminated by about five percent of the sunlight (full moon* is only on March 18th) – the probability that you will be able to see the point of impact should be low.
Can probes orbiting the moon see the rocket impact today?
There are currently three spacecraft orbiting the moon:
|Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (Nasa)||2009|
|Queqiao (China)||2018 (not directly in lunar orbit)|
So far, there is only official information from the US space agency NASA*, which has had the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft in orbit around the moon since 2009. She cannot observe the impact live, but will try to find and photograph the resulting crater as soon as possible after the impact. The earliest LRO can see the Hertzsprung crater is around two weeks after the impact and will then take pictures of the impact site. They will have a resolution of about one meter per pixel. It is not yet known whether the Chinese and Indian space probes will also be looking for the crater.
Will today’s rocket impact harm the moon in any way?
No, the moon will not be harmed by the rocket stage impact. It has survived numerous impacts since its formation, as evidenced by its cratered surface. About 300,000 craters with a diameter of more than one kilometer are known on the side of the moon facing the earth alone. For most of these craters other celestial bodies – asteroids* or comets – responsible for hitting the moon. Compared to these sometimes gigantic craters, the discarded rocket that hits the moon on March 4 will leave behind a rather small crater: Experts assume that it will have a diameter of ten to 30 meters and be about two to three meters deep .
the Impact of the rocket stage from China on the moon* reminds of the NASA’s LCROSS probe* which the US space agency intentionally crashed onto the moon in 2009. The probe crashed into a crater near the South Pole, the bottom of which is permanently in shadow. The goal of the mission: The impact should stir up lunar dust from the crater and enable researchers to find out whether there is water ice in the crater. The mission was a complete success: scientists were able to find signs of water ice that were loosened by the impact.
What does science say about the impact on the moon?
Science is divided on the impact of the rocket stage on the moon: On the one hand, it is the first unplanned impact of a piece of space junk on the moon – an event that can change the moon and shows how far the space junk has already come in solar system has spread. As researcher Vishnu Reddy from the University of Arizona in Tucson found out, more than 150 objects orbited the moon – and at least 90 percent of them are junk, quoted the magazine Nature Reddy.
On the other hand, the impact of the rocket part on the moon also represents an opportunity, as shown by NASA’s LCROSS mission and a look even further into the past. The impact of space probes on the moon “was partly aimed at in order to do science,” explains Ulrich Köhler from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to dpa. In the “Apollo” era of NASA, this was even part of the mission concept. “Moon modules were then uncoupled and placed on a collision course,” says Köhler. The vibration of the lunar soil was measured with a seismometer on the moon, from which conclusions could be drawn about the properties of the lunar crust.
Looking back: space travel used to crash its probes on the moon
This was also done on later moon missions. “The aim was to geochemically record the resulting ejecta cloud – for example to be able to detect ice molecules in isolated craters,” says Köhler, who assumes that the impending impact could also be “useful”. “The lunar soil has matured over millions of years due to solar wind, cosmic rays and impacted micrometeorites. The impact now uncovers material that is practically unadulterated – and that too on the far side of the moon, which has hardly been studied,” says the planetary geologist at the DLR Institute for Planetary Research in Berlin-Adlershof.
The planetary scientist Paul Hayne (University of Colorado Boulder) sees the unintentional impact of the rocket part on the moon as an opportunity: together with his colleagues, he has been trying for a decade to find out how deep the lunar crater is, in which Nasa -probe LCROSS crashed, he explains on the portal The Conversation. “The random experiment of the impending crash will give planetary scientists the opportunity to observe a very similar crater in daylight. It will be like seeing LCROSS crater in detail for the first time,” says Haynes. (Tanya Banner) *fr.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.
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