NASA mystery: New clue to origin of rocket that SMASHED into Moon creating double crater


In a statement, NASA experts said: “Astronomers discovered a rocket body heading toward a lunar collision late last year. “Impact occurred March 4, with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter later spotting the resulting crater. “Surprisingly, the crater is actually two craters — and eastern crater (18-metre diameter, about 19.5 years) superimposed on a western crater (16-metre diameter, about 17.5 yards.)”

The fact that the accident created a pair of craters may provide clues to the identity of the rocket that collided with the lunar surface, the space agency said.

They explained: “The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end.

“Typically, a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end — the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank.”

Such rockets would produce a single crater on impact, suggesting that the nature of the rocket that produced the overlapping craters was different.

In fact, NASA explained, the double crater is quite a unique phenomenon.

They said: “No other rocket body impacts on the Moon created double craters.

“The four Apollo SIV-B craters (Apollos 13, 14, 15, 17) were somewhat irregular in outline and were substantially larger (greater than 35 metres, about 38 yards) than each of the double craters.”

The SIV-B — pronounced “S-four-B” — was the third stage of the Saturn V launch vehicle, used in lunar missions to first achieve Earth orbit insertion and then to set course for the moon in a spaceflight manoeuvre experts call “translunar injection”.

NASA continued: “The maximum width (29 metres, about 31.7 yards) of the double crate of the mystery rocket was near that of the SIV-Bs.”

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China, however, has dismissed such suggestions, asserting instead that the booster in question “safely entered the Earth’s atmosphere and was completely incinerated”.

Independent astronomer Bill Gray told the BBC he was “99.9 percent sure it’s the China 5-T1” — although he had previously thought it was a SpaceX booster rocket.

Mr Gray used software he created to track objects in space to extrapolate backwards and compute an approximate orbit for the mystery rocket.

Although China announces and broadcasts its space launches, the country does not reveal their planned routes.


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