Soon a booster rocket hits the moon. But does this really come from SpaceX? The component finder acknowledges an error.
Update from Sunday February 13, 2022 at 11:00 PM: The news has been making headlines for some time now: a neglected “Falcon 9” rocket stage from private space company SpaceX is cruising through space on a collision course with the Moon. However, this report has now turned out to be wrong.
Although one component of the rocket is in orbit around the Moon, it is not the stage of the SpaceX rocket. There is a high probability that the stage will come from China. American researcher Bill Gray, who wrote the letter about the Elon Musk missile, admitted the error on his website.
A rocket on collision course with the Moon: Object incorrectly identified as a SpaceX rocket
Gray explained that in 2015 he and other observers discovered something unknown in the sky and gave it a tentative name: WE0913A. In February 2015, a SpaceX rocket carried the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite into Earth orbit. According to Gray, other observations indicated that the discovery must have been something man-made. The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket quickly became the most likely candidate.
However, NASA researcher John Giorgini took a closer look at Gray’s observation and concluded that the SpaceX rocket could not reach orbit at all. Bill Gray reported his finding in an email on Saturday (February 12, 2022), which reports on his website.
But not SpaceX: Chinese rocket component is supposed to hit the moon
“John’s email got me motivated, I searched my email archive to remember why I originally identified the item as DSCOVR level seven years ago,” Bill Gray wrote. As he researched his archives, he was still completely convinced that he had done nothing wrong. But Gray also noticed inconsistencies upon closer examination.
The American researcher conducted a search of his data and found that the missile part should be the support for the Chinese “Long March 3” missile, which was used in the Chang’e 5-T1 moon mission. The launch time and lunar orbit exactly coincide with the orbit of the object that will hit the moon in March. The Chinese booster rocket will reach the lunar surface on March 4, according to Gray’s calculations.
Although the new finding is only circumstantial, Bill Gray is still convinced that the body should be a component of the Chinese missile. The researcher spoke of “extremely convincing evidence”.
SpaceX rocket out of control: Moon collision imminent
First report from Tuesday 25 January 2022: FRANKFURT – If a rocket is launched into space, it usually does not turn out to be very interesting after a few minutes – after all, it is only a carrier and has served its purpose: space travelThe mission is on its way. At SpaceX, billionaire private space company Elon Musk, the first stage of a rocket launch is still relevant: it usually lands on an autonomous ship or on Earth and is ready for the next rocket launch. But for a rocket’s second stage, the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” usually applies.
No wonder: the second stage of a rocket usually burns up due to its collision with the Earth’s atmosphere. But the rocket stage launched by SpaceX in 2015 suddenly grabbed attention again. In February 2015, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried the NOAA Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite into space. This was SpaceX’s first interplanetary rocket to eject its payload from Earth’s orbit.
The stage of a SpaceX rocket on a collision course with the Moon
When the NOAA satellite began its journey to what is known as LaGrange Point, more than a million kilometers from Earth, the second stage of the rocket ran out of fuel to be directed into Earth’s atmosphere to burn. It also lacks the energy to escape the gravitational pull of Earth and the Moon.
And so the SpaceX rocket’s stage has been degenerating in a chaotic orbit across the Earth-Moon system since February 2015. But the object’s fate now appears doomed: a new calculation shows that its orbit puts the neglected object on a collision course with the Moon. Bill Gray, who developed a program used by professional and amateur astronomers around the world to observe near-Earth objects, asteroids and comets, believes that the uncontrolled impact of the SpaceX rocket on the moon in early March should occur.
The SpaceX rocket’s stage swings uncontrollably toward the moon
Since the rocket’s stage appears to wobbly in its orbit, Gray has called for observations some time ago to get more data. Using this new data, Gray predicts the Falcon 9 rocket phase will begin on March 4, 2022 on the far side of the moon, near the equator.
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However, doubts remain that “space junk can be a bit tricky”, As Gray writes on his website. Gray explains how sunlight affects the body is “difficult to fully predict.” “The unexpected effects are very small, but they will accumulate between now and March 4th,” the researcher continues.
Space exploration: SpaceX rocket stage hits moon in March 2022
Gray wants to predict the impact of the rocket on the Moon as accurately as possible in order to enable research into the impact. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) from NASA and the Chandrayaan-2 from India can find the resulting crater on the lunar surface and possibly even monitor the impact. So far, Gray fears his predictions may be off by several minutes, hoping for more observations in February that could reduce the uncertainty.
Space: SpaceX rocket stage likely to leave impact craters on the moon
If the stage of a SpaceX rocket hit the moon, Gray thinks that would be the first accidental impact of space debris on the moon. In October 2009, the US space agency NASA commissioned the Lunar Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) spacecraft to gain scientific knowledge. Previously, the probes that were supposed to land had already collided with the moon. NASA’s Apollo missions also intentionally dropped parts of a spacecraft on the Moon.
Gray writes that the impact of the rocket’s next stage on the Moon is “essentially a free LCROSS.” However, you likely won’t see the effect, because it will likely happen on the back of the moon. “If we can tell LRO and Chandrayaan exactly where the crater is, they can see a very new impact crater at that location and possibly learn about the geology of this part of the moon,” Gray imagines. After all, we know the mass of the empty Falcon 9 second stage – four tons – and the speed at which it will impact – 2.58 km / s (about 9300 km / h). (tab)
SpaceX has been repeatedly criticized for its satellite constellation Starlink: a recent study showed that satellites primarily affect astronomy at dusk – and this is exactly what is important for the search for potentially dangerous near-Earth objects. The impact of countless missile launches on the environment was also discussed.
List of rules: © Zheng Bin / dpa
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