NASA said Thursday that it aims to survey the crater when the remains of a SpaceX rocket is expected to crash into the Moon in early March, calling the event “an exciting research opportunity.”
The rocket was deployed in 2015 to put a NASA satellite into orbit and its second stage, or booster, has been floating across the universe ever since, a common fate for such pieces of space technology.
“On its current trajectory, the second stage is expected to impact the far side of the Moon on March 4, 2022,” a NASA spokesman told AFP.
The impact of the four-ton rocket chunk will not be visible from Earth in real time, nor will NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which is currently orbiting the Moon, “be in a position to observe the impact as it happens.” ,” said the spokesperson.
However, LRO can be used later to capture images for before and after comparison.
Finding the crater “will be challenging and may take weeks to months,” the spokesperson said, adding that “the unique phenomenon presents an exciting research opportunity.”
The study of craters formed by an hitting object with a known mass and speed (it would travel at 9,000 kilometers per hour), as well as the material that exerted the impact, advances selenology, or the scientific study of the Moon. can help.
Spacecraft have intentionally crashed into the Moon for scientific purposes, such as to test the seismometer during the Apollo missions, but this is the first unintended collision to be detected.
Astronomer Bill Gray, creator of the software used to determine the trajectories of asteroids and other objects, was the first to calculate the booster’s new collision course with the Moon.
He believes that space junk should always be directed toward the Moon: “If it hits the Moon, we actually learn something from it,” Gray said.
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