Why We Won't Be Able To Watch China's Rocket Hit The Moon

The rocket headed for collision with the moon on March 4, 2022 is a discarded, earth-made body from a previous space mission, but unlike many events in space, the expected collision won't be visible from home telescopes. When a UFO is spotted in deep space, astronomers have to determine whether the object is a rocket or an asteroid, and when or if it will collide with another planet. As so-called 'space trash' continues to pollute space, astronomers and scientists have taken significant steps to identify and remove these objects.

The object was originally misidentified as a rocket from SpaceX, the technology and space exploration company founded by Elon Musk. In 2015, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was launched as part of a mission for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It placed a Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in orbit to monitor weather in space and to double as an Earth observation satellite. Astronomers first identified the object expected to collide with the moon as the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, but NASA rebuked the claim, stating that the rocket's trajectory wasn't near the moon.

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Astronomers now believe the rocket is not from the private space sector, due to the fact that most rockets discarded in space have known trajectories. Instead, it is a rocket from China that was launched back in 2014. The Long March 3C rocket served as the launch device for the Chang'e-5 T1 spacecraft. If this rocket is indeed the object that is expected to crash into the moon's surface on March 4, 2022, it would mean the Chinese spacecraft has been in orbit for a surprising amount of time. More than seven years have passed since the spacecraft was lost, but it was pulled into the moon's gravity ensuring an eventual collision.

The discarded rocket's trajectory places it on a direct path to the far side of the moon, also known as the 'dark side'. This side of the moon isn't visible from Earth, meaning people won't be able to watch the expected collision from home. While people can see many space events with equipment as simple as a backyard telescope, this collision requires extremely technical equipment. In order to gain an understanding of the moon, astronomers use robots and cameras to obtain data and imagery of its far side.

Astronomers will use this high-tech equipment to witness the collision in real time. NASA, for example, has a robotic spacecraft in orbit that can be positioned to observe the crash and its aftermath: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). India has a similar spacecraft, Chandrayaan 2, that can capture the unlikely event of an object crashing into the moon's surface. The moon's surface is covered in craters, but only few impacts have been photographed by humans despite many examples of impacts.

Next: NASA's Getting A New Rover To Help Create Water & Oxygen On The Moon

Source: Cincinnati Enquirer



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