Part of a Falcon 9 rocket from billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX space exploration program is on a collision course with the moon! The rocket’s upper stage, the booster, has been wandering wildly through space for 7 years and is now headed for an inevitable collision.
After 7 years of wandering in space in a chaotic orbit, the upper stage of Falcon 9 will collide with the Moon on March 4!
The Falcon 9 rocket was launched from Florida, USA in February 2015 with the mission of putting the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a meteorological satellite, into orbit. After completing this mission, the upper stage of the rocket ran out of fuel to return to Earth and became stranded in space. Usually the upper stages of SpaceX rockets return to Earth after being sent into space and are even reused.
Since then, the rocket is pulled by the gravitational forces of the Earth, of the Moon and the Sun following a chaotic orbit, according to astronomers. On January 5, the Falcon 9 piece made a close flight to the Moon. Thanks to the observations obtained during this flight, a team of observers led by astronomer Bill Gray managed to calculate its orbit and discover that the rocket will collide with the Moon on March 4, 2022!
Bill Gray’s team also confirmed that the collision will take place in the Hertzsprung crater, located on the far side of the Moon, which means it will not be visible from Earth. The wreckage of the Falcon 9, with 4 tons at a speed of 9,300 km/h, will cause an intense collision, however, the effects of this impact will not be so great, because the rocket is a very small object compared to the Moon. At most, a new small crater should form, about 10 to 20 meters in diameter.
This may be the first unintended collision of space debris, but this is not the first time that a man-made object has collided with the Moon. Many rockets and other spacecraft were intentionally sent into collision with the Moon. During many Apollo missions, NASA crashed the propulsion stages of its rockets on the Moon to enable seismic measurements to help scientists understand and characterize the interior of the Moon.
In 2009, NASA’s Atlas V rocket crashed into the south pole of the Moon, ejecting huge amounts of ice from a crater, which helped scientists discover that the Moon’s polar regions are ice-rich. This time, however, it’s highly unlikely that scientists can learn anything from Falcon 9’s collision with the Moon.