(Part of) a rocket crashed onto the moon this afternoon. Interesting, but not really a “big deal,” according to experts.
An earlier version of this article stated that this is the first time a piece of space junk has hit the moon. However, this is not true.
Bill Gray of Project Pluto was the first to notice the rocket. It was first mentioned that it would be the stage of the SpaceX rocket launched in 2015, but it came back to that later. Now he says it might be a Chinese missile. The Chinese foreign minister denied this in February of this year. He said their missile re-entered the atmosphere and burned completely.
The rocket part that hit the moon weighs about 4 tons and will hit the moon at a speed of 9000 kilometers per hour.
How could this ancient rocket part, which has been orbiting in space for years, collide with the moon? “It’s space junk,” says scientist Dedrick Jekyll. “In this respect, this is human neglect.” According to Jekel, there is a growing problem with space debris. “Because we are launching more and more into space. Usually it is humans who are leaving the chaos behind again.”
A rocket needs tremendous speed to stay in orbit around the Earth. “Then we’re talking about kilometers per second,” Jekyll teaches. The ISS, for example, takes an hour and a half to orbit the Earth. When two missiles collide, a huge amount of energy is released. This collision ensures that you have smaller pieces floating around, which can also collide with each other again.”
Jekyll explains that the rocket part that crashed into the moon was at one point grabbing the moon’s gravitational field. The rocket crashed on the “far side” of the moon, which is not visible to us on Earth. The effect did not have a significant effect.
This morning, the American space agency NASA announced that it was trying to record the impact of the rocket with the help of satellites orbiting the moon.
Nowadays, it is necessary to think about what happens to a satellite when it is at the end of its life. “Often they return to the atmosphere, where they burn up in the atmosphere,” Jekyll says.
Famous Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell previously said it would be the first time an “uncontrolled rocket” had hit the Moon, but that’s not actually true. Effects like this have happened before† According to McDowell, the effects would be “negligible” anyway. “It’s fun, but no big deal† wrote on Twitter.
However, space enthusiasts hope to learn something from the rocket’s smash into the moon’s surface. “He’s hoping for an impact on the moon,” Gray says. “We already know what happens when waste hits the ground and there’s not much we can learn from that.”
For those who ask: Yes, the old Falcon 9 second stage left in high orbit in 2015 will hit the moon on March 4. It’s interesting, but it’s not a big deal.
– Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) January 25 2022
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