A SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket launched in 2015 is set to crash on the Moon in March this year. The part that is set to hit the lunar surface is the second stage of the Falcon-9 that was launched to deploy the US’s Deep Space Climate Observatory.
After successfully deploying the payload, the two-stage rocket was left with not enough fuel to return to Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. The rocket was so far away that it did not have enough energy to escape the gravity of the Earth-Moon system forcing it to remain in a chaotic orbit.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer with the Center for Astrophysics confirmed that a two-stage rocket launched by SpaceX will collide with the Moon. “For those asking: yes, an old Falcon 9 second stage left in high orbit in 2015 is going to hit the moon on March 4. It’s interesting, but not a big deal,” he tweeted.
NOT AN INTENTIONAL CRASHING
He further added that it’s not a deliberate attempt by the Elon Musk-led company to crash its equipment into the Moon and said, “It’s just that things left in cislunar orbit are unstable – will eventually either hit the Moon or the Earth or get perturbed to solar orbit.”© Provided by India TodayThe Falcon 9’s upper stage will very likely impact the far side of the Moon. (File Pic)
Bill Gray, who writes the widely used Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects, had put out calls for astronomers to observe the stage which appears to be tumbling through space. Based on the data, the astronomers believe that Falcon 9’s upper stage will very likely impact the far side of the Moon, near the equator, on March 4.
In a blog update, Gray said, “I have a fairly complete mathematical model of what the earth, moon, sun, and planets are doing and how their gravity is affecting the object. I have a rough idea of how much sunlight is pushing outward on the object, gently pushing it away from the sun.”
He further added that once the upper stage strikes the lunar surface, Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Isro’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter could find the crater that will be formed by the crash.
“If we can tell the LRO or Chandrayaan folks exactly where the crater is, they’ll eventually pass over that spot and be able to see a very fresh impact crater and probably learn something about the geology (well, selenology) of that part of the moon. We know the mass of an empty Falcon 9 booster, and that it will hit at 2.58 km/s; the known momentum and energy of the object making the crater ought to help in calibrating the crater size vs. energy function,” Gray wrote.