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Rocket to hit the moon not from SpaceX, turns out. So what is it?

Astronomers have spotted a UFO in deep space. It’s not aliens, but most likely a rocket body of Earthly origin. But which rocket is it? How did it get there? And why is it going to hit the moon? 

First spotted in 2015, astronomers thought the object might be a near-Earth asteroid, a natural chunk of rock or metal that occasionally strays closer to our planet. But further observations revealed it to be a discarded body of a rocket.

The mystery object was then largely forgotten until last month when an astronomer, Bill Gray, determined it was on a collision course with the moon. Gray calculated that the old rocket would slam into the lunar surface on March 4, 2022. 

Which rocket is it?

There are tons of discarded rocket bodies in space and most of their pathways are known. Gray first assumed it was an expended SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched in 2015 that delivered a satellite into space, then didn’t have enough fuel to return to Earth. But NASA engineer Jon Giorgoni discovered that the mystery rocket could not be from SpaceX. 

So, what is it? 

Now, astronomers believe the most likely culprit is a Chinese Long March 3C rocket, which launched the Chang’e-5 T1 spacecraft in 2014. 

If true, the Long March 3C rocket body has been circling around the solar system for more than seven years. Slowly, it has been drawn into the moon’s gravity and will crash into the far side of the moon at about 5,700 miles per hour. 

The far side of the moon is rough and filled with craters. By comparison, the near side of the Moon, the side we always see, is relatively smooth. Since the moon is rotation locked to always point the same side toward Earth, humanity has only glimpsed the lunar farside recently.

Will we be able to watch the crash?

Unfortunately, since it will impact a side of the moon not visible from Earth, we won’t be able to observe the blast with backyard telescopes. Instead, astronomers hope to witness the fall using robotic crafts orbiting the moon. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and India’s Chandrayaan 2 may be positioned to observe the impact site and, hopefully, the crash itself.


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