Rocket section hit the moon, astronomers say

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The Moon rises behind the Statue of Liberty in New Jersey on February 18. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License picture

March 4 (UPI) — Astronomers say a rocket likely hit the moon on Friday, based on the law of gravity, but experts told UPI on Friday there are currently no plans to go crash-check or research a crater.

Since the impact posed no threat to the moon or Earth-based space missions, there are no plans to confirm the strike until NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter moves overhead. above the region – where a crater may be visible – independent astronomer Bill Gray told UPI in an email.

“Someone has to go through the images and find a fresh new crater. I don’t think that last piece will take that long,” said Gray, who develops software to track manufactured space objects. “I’m quite confident it hit at the time and place specified. We had plenty of tracking data for the object.”

Nasa said it could take weeks or months to find the impact crater in LRO images, although the agency has not yet announced a plan to move the satellite into position to do so.

Gray discovered in January that the abandoned rocket section would crash into the moon.

At first he thought it was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage launched in 2015. But later he and others in the astronomy community thought the errant rocket part might have come from a Chinese mission launched in 2014.

China denied that part of the rocket came from the mission.

Regardless of who owns the rocket, the episode highlighted the need for someone to track Deep Space’s manufactured objects, experts say.

Currently, US Space Force and other tracking efforts are focused only on low Earth orbit or geosynchronous orbit at around 22,000 miles altitude.

The moon is 238,900 miles from Earth.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who also tracks space objects based on available data, said he was not aware of any plans to search for the impact crater.

But he and Gray both said there was a need for better tracking in Deep Space, especially with more lunar missions planned under NASA’s Artemis program.

McDowell said there was no new data to confirm the moonstrike, which reportedly happened around 7:25 a.m. EST.

“We rely on the law of gravity,” McDowell said. “There is no better authority than Isaac Newton on this subject.”

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavor during a flyby of the orbiting laboratory that took place after it undocked from the space-facing port of the Harmony module on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA