TechNew craters appear on the moon, humans to blame

New craters appear on the moon, humans to blame

Hertzsprung crater after the impact
Hertzsprung crater after the impact
Images source: © NASA

12:22 PM EST, November 23, 2023

Scientists from the University of Arizona have investigated the object that struck the moon, creating two craters on its surface on March 4th, 2022. Early investigations revealed that debris from China's Long March 3C rocket was responsible. They're now closely studying an additional, mysterious payload from the rocket.

The rocket component that damaged the moon was part of the Chinese Long March 3C, launched into space in 2014 during the Chang'e 5-T1 mission. Science Alert reports that this mission aimed to test future lunar landers. Interestingly, not one but two craters have formed on the moon following the impact.

New craters form on the moon

Scientists in "The Planetary Science Journal" discuss the rocket's additional yet unidentified payload. They suggest this likely caused the damage, even though the China National Space Administration (CNSA) denies it. Determining the exact nature of this payload is challenging, mainly as the impact occurred on the side of the moon that can't be seen directly from Earth.

A vital analysis team member, Tanner Campbell from the University of Arizona, observes that this is the first time he's seen a double crater. He states that two objects of similar mass, falling at a specific distance apart, could have created it. We may never discover the identity of the second payload, which is speculated to be an additional support structure or equipment linked to the Long March 3C rocket.

Initially, experts thought the space debris found on the moon's surface could be the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, launched by Elon Musk's SpaceX in collaboration with NASA and NOAA in February 2015. However, this theory has since been debunked. Considering the potential for more such events, scientists are calling for stringent monitoring of all objects sent into space.

Human activities are causing an increase in space debris. This poses a significant concern as uncontrolled debris threatens the International Space Station (ISS) and important research instruments located in space. Recently, we reported on a tool bag lost by ISS astronauts during a space repair. Thankfully, subsequent analyses have shown that the risk of ISS collision with this debris is minimal.

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