On March 4, 2022, a rocket hit the far side of the Moon, generating a double crater 29 meters wide near Hertzprung crater.
Initially, it was determined to belong to SpaceX: a Falcon 9 from the DSCOVR mission, launched in 2015. However, soon a second candidate was discovered: The third stage of a Long March 3C, part of the Chang’e 5-T1 mission. Now, a group of researchers has reached a definitive conclusion.
According to a study published in the journal Planetary Science Journal, led by Tanner Campbell, a doctoral student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Arizona, after analyzing the trajectory of the object, it was concluded that indeed He belonged to a Chinese mission.
Finding objects in space
According to the team, in 2015, researchers from the Catalina Sky Survey, a program tasked with detecting and studying asteroids that They can represent a problem for the Earthdiscovered an object while moving at high speed between the Earth and the Moon, which they called WE0913A, although they did not know its identity.
Initially it was thought to belong to a SpaceX roving Falcon 9 that was headed to the Moon, but after studying the way light bounced off its surface and how it moved in space, they determined that it was more likely a Chang’e 5-T1launched in 2014 as part of its lunar exploration program.
Regarding this booster, although the Chinese space agency stated that it had burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere upon re-entry, the United States Space Command revealed that I had not returned to the planet.
This new study sheds more light on the crater. The publication mentions that compared how the brightness changed over time of object WE0913A against that of thousands of hypothetical space objects.
This allowed, according to Campbell, to understand that since it was an object that had been subject to the gravity forces of the Earth, the Moon and the light of the Sun for a long time, it was to be expected that it would wobble a little, considering that it was an empty shell with a heavy motor at one of its ends. However, it was found that she was spinning around, but in a very stable manner.
According to the researchers, the object It looked like a gym weight, with two considerable masses at each end. In this case, one would be the two engines weighing 1,090 kilos without fuel, while at the other end of the stage, there was another mass that gave stability to WE0913A, which would explain the type of hole it opened.
According to the researcher, this is the first time a double crater has been seen. Furthermore, it is known that Chang’e 5-T1 had an almost direct downward impact, so for the two holes to be generated, it was necessary to have two masses approximately equal and separated from each other.
Campbell estimates that this second mass was too large to be an instrument platform, so it could well be a support structure or some type of additional instrumentationalthough Campbell accepts that it will likely never be known.