The rest of a SpaceX rocket will crash on the Moon in early March
Steph Deschamps / January 27, 2022
The second stage of a SpaceX rocket that took off seven years ago will crash in March on the Moon, according to experts, who have recalculated the trajectory of this object left abandoned in space.
The rocket had been used in 2015 to put into orbit a climate observation satellite on Earth, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).
Since this date, the second stage having been used to propel it floated in the cosmos on an orbit called chaotic by the mathematicians, explained Wednesday to the AFP the astronomer Bill Gray, who discovered the new trajectory.
The object passed quite close to the Moon in early January, which changed its orbit, said the manager of Project Pluto, a software to calculate the trajectories of asteroids and other objects, used by observation programs funded by NASA.
A week later, the expert was able to observe the rest of the rocket again and realized that it should crash on the far side of the Moon on March 4.
After appealing to the amateur astronomy community to make new observations, the data has been confirmed. The precise time and location could still change by a few minutes and kilometers, but the collision is certain.
I've been tracking space junk like this for about 15 years, and this is the first unintentional lunar impact detected, he noted.
The impact of this object of about four tons will not be visible from Earth when it occurs.
But it should cause a crater which could be observed by the scientists thereafter, in particular by the probes of Nasa LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter), or Indian Chandrayaan-2, and thus to make it possible to learn more about the lunar geology.
Spacecraft have been intentionally launched to the Moon for scientific purposes in the past. In 2009, NASA sent a second stage rocket to crash in a region near the South Pole, in order to study the presence of water.
These unplanned lunar impacts could however multiply in the future, according to Bill Gray, notably because of the objects left behind by the American or Chinese lunar programs.