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Astronomers predict that SpaceX space debris will reach the Moon


A SpaceX rocket carrying a NASA weather satellite lifts off in February 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

A SpaceX rocket carrying a NASA weather satellite lifts off in February 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

A piece of a SpaceX rocket that took off seven years ago and was abandoned in space after completing its mission is due to crash into the moon in March, experts say.


The rocket was used in 2015 to launch a NASA satellite called the Deep Space Climate Observatory into orbit.

Since then, the rocket’s second stage, or booster, has been floating in what mathematicians call a chaotic orbit, astronomer Bill Gray told AFP on Wednesday.

It was Gray who calculated the new collision course for space debris with the Moon.

The booster passed fairly close to the Moon in January in an encounter that altered its orbit, Gray said.

He is behind the Pluto Project, software that calculates the trajectory of asteroids and other things in space and is used in NASA-funded space observation programs.

A week after the rocket stage buzzed near the Moon, Gray detected it again and concluded that it will actually crash into the dark side of the satellite on March 4.

Gray appealed to the community of amateur astronomers to join him in observing the thruster (it is bright and easy to spot) and his conclusion was confirmed.

The exact time and location of the impact may change a bit from your forecast, but there is widespread agreement that there will be a collision on the Moon on that day.

“I’ve been tracking debris like this for about 15 years. And this is the first unintentional lunar impact we’ve had,” Gray told AFP.

The impact of this four-tonne object on the Moon will not be visible from Earth in real time.

But it will leave a crater that scientists will be able to observe, as with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or India’s Chandrayaan-2 satellite, to learn more about the Moon’s geology.

Spacecraft have intentionally crashed into the Moon before, for scientific purposes.

In 2009, for example, NASA sent a rocket stage to the Moon near its south pole to search for water.

But most rockets don’t go that far from Earth. SpaceX brings its rocket boosters through Earth’s atmosphere to disintegrate over the ocean.

Gray said there could be more unintended collisions with the Moon in the future as the US and Chinese space programs leave more debris in orbit.


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© 2022 AFP

Citation: Three, Two, One: Astronomers Predict SpaceX Space Debris to Hit the Moon (Jan 26, 2022) Retrieved Jan 26, 2022 at https://phys.org/news/2022-01-astronomers -spacex-space-junk-moon .html

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