Rogue Rocket Carves A New Crater On The Moon

By

Word Count

366 words

Reading Level

Listen to Article

A piece of space junk crash-landed on the Moon's far side on March 4, 2022 (Credit: ESA.Int)

A school-bus-sized object, which has been orbiting in space at about 5,600 miles per hour since 2014, crashed-landed on the Moon on March 4, 2022. The 40-foot-long, 3,000-kilogram piece of space debris is believed to have carved a massive — 60 to 100-feet-wide — hole near the Hertzsprung Crater on the Moon's far side. However, since the exact impact location is unknown, it may take NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter a few months to identify and image the new crater.

US astronomer Bill Gray first alerted the world about the object's upcoming rendezvous with the Moon in January 2022. The scientist initially believed that it was the upper stage— the detachable segment of the rocket that helps propel the cargo farther into space — of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. However, further research proved that the booster — which transported a National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) satellite to deep space in February 2015 — is orbiting the Sun.

The expert now thinks the errant object may be remains from China's Chang'e 5-T1 mission, which was launched to the Moon in October 2014. But Chinese officials assert that the upper stage of their rocket burned up a few years ago after re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.

Regardless of the origin, the recent crash demonstrates the dangers space debris could pose to future lunar explorers. Alice Gorman, a space archaeologist at Flinders University, says, "At some point in the future, an event like this isn't just going to be a curious thing to observe from the outside. It's going to be something that people in lunar orbit or on the surface of the Moon are worried about."

The rocket is believed to have crash-landed near the Hertzsprung Crater (Credit: Bill Gray/Project Pluto)

While WE0913A is the first known accidental lunar collision, it may not be the first one ever. Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics believes many more have gone undetected because of the lack of tracking data. The expert told National Geographic, "We do know that some fraction of them have likely smashed into the moon and escaped our notice, another fraction were nudged into orbits around the sun, and a third fraction are still in their evolving orbits or have burned up in Earth's atmosphere."

Resources: Natgeo.com, NPR.com, Livescience.com

Workbook

Get the Workbook for this article!

Workbook contains: Article, Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking Questions, Vocabulary in Context (+ answers), Multiple Choice Quiz (+ answers), Parts of Speech Quiz (+ answers), Vocabulary Game (+ answers)
Cite Article
109 Comments
  • 1c71234
    1c712342 months
    This is a good article!
    • arctic_fox_girl
      I LOVE SPACE AND THE MOON!
      • wowiexist
        wowiexist3 months
        isn't it cool that stuff like that stays in space for so long? NASA should be more careful!
        • wowiexist
          wowiexist3 months
          I think it is really cool, but also reminds us to clean up our planet and pay attention to other things :0
          • kainorion
            kainorion3 months
            One thing I learned from reading this is that are space junk hit the moon and that is not good.
            • mxd_3632
              • clapzi
                clapzi3 months
                this is cool
                • psytaranza
                  psytaranza3 months
                  INTERESTING. But this is cool though! We need to clean up space so no one gets hurt or killed on expeditions to space.
                  • eddsworld_4life
                    This is a very interesting article, but it also tells us of stuff we need to work on, such as runaway rocket debris hitting Earth instead of the Moon. This may be a good call for action to Scientists and other people to start thinking of ways to clean up space, so nobody gets hurt on missions, travels, etc.
                    • heheboymesus
                      heheboymesus3 months
                      wow awsome