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June 28, 2022

NASA spotted an unusual impact site on the Moon from an unknown rocket

Astronomers discovered a rocket body headed for a lunar collision last year and the impact occurred on March 4. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has observed the resulting crater, which, unsurprisingly, actually had two craters: an 18-metre-diameter Easter crater superimposed on a 16-metre-diameter western crater.

The unexpected double crater formation indicates that there was a massive amount of mass at each end of the rocket body. Typically, a spent rocket has the mass concentrated at the end of the motor, with an empty fuel tank at the rest of the rocket stage. Because the origin of the rocket that created the crater remains uncertain, the dual nature of the crater may help pinpoint its identity.

No other rocket body impact has been detected on the Moon so far, forming double craters. The four craters created by the third stage of the Saturn rocket that powered the Apollo missions (Apollo 13, 14, 15, 17) were irregular in outline and quite large, most of which exceeded 35 meters in diameter. The double crater created by the Mystery Rockets had a maximum width of about 29 metres, the Saturn Rockets had.

NASA spotted an unusual impact site on the Moon from an unknown rocket Impact craters created by the third stage of the Saturn rocket from various Apollo missions. (Image credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

Prior to the impact, researchers at the University of Arizona’s Space Domain Awareness Lab at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory concluded that it was caused by a Chinese booster from a rocket launch in 2014. But NASA has not yet confirmed this.

“We took a spectrum (which can reveal the physical makeup of an object) and compared it to similar types of Chinese and SpaceX rockets, and it matches the Chinese rockets. It’s the best match, and we have this. The best possible evidence is on point,” said associate professor Vishnu Reddy, who co-leads the Space Domain Awareness Lab, in a university press statement issued in March.

Based on its path through the sky, the booster was initially thought to be a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster from its 2015 launch, but university researchers later concluded that the rocket is a booster for the Chang’e 5-T1 , which was launched in 2014 as part of of the Chinese space agency’s lunar exploration program. But a NASA statement about the crater released on June 24 refers to it as a “mystery rocket.”

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