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Rogue Rocket Heading For The Moon Doesn't Belong To SpaceX

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Rogue Rocket Heading For The Moon Doesn't Belong To SpaceX

A rogue chunk of space debris is expected to crash into the moon next month, and experts have worked out that it came from somewhere other than they first thought.

The debris was first identified as belonging to one of Elon Musk's SpaceX rockets, which had launched seven years ago to deliver an observation satellite named DSCOVR into space.

The satellite, which works for the US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has the job of monitoring solar winds coming from the sun to help us better predict space weather.

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However, the chunk of junk due to crash into the moon on March 4 is not from an old SpaceX rocket as first thought, it is in fact part of a Chinese spacecraft that was sent to the moon in 2014.

The chunk of junk is not from a rogue SpaceX rocket as first thought (Alamy)
The chunk of junk is not from a rogue SpaceX rocket as first thought (Alamy)

The chunk of debris heading for the moon was first identified last month by astronomer Bill Gray, who thought it was part of a SpaceX rocket from years ago, before someone from NASA's jet propulsion laboratory informed him the spacecraft's trajectory hadn't gone anywhere near the moon, MailOnline reports.

Taking another look at the object in space, Gray worked out it was actually part of China's Chang'e 5-T1 craft, an experimental prototype launched in preparation for the Chang'e 5 mission, which collected samples from the surface of the moon in 2020.

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For those concerned about the safety of the moon, don't be, even though the debris weighs about four tonnes and is travelling at around 5,700mph, the worst it is expected to do is make a 65ft crater in the surface of the moon.

The Moon will be relatively unharmed by the collision (Alamy)
The Moon will be relatively unharmed by the collision (Alamy)

Of course, this isn't the first time something we've made has hit the moon, considering we've landed on it several times, but it could be the first unintentional collision between a piece of space debris made by humans and the moon.

It's also a reminder that the space around planet Earth is getting pretty crowded with bits of debris from all of the rockets, probes and satellites we've sent up there over the years.

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According to NASA, more than 27,000 individual pieces of debris are being tracked, while there are plenty of smaller pieces of junk which are too small to keep track of.

The danger they pose to spacecraft could be serious as even small pieces of scrap stuck in Earth's orbit are travelling at speeds of up to 17,500mph, which could do serious damage to a rocket.

Since 1999 the International Space Station has had to move 29 times because of the risk of being struck by space debris.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]  

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Technology, Space, SpaceX, Elon Musk

Joe Harker
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