According to a report in the Planetary Science Journal, the enigma surrounding the unexplained lunar crash that occurred on March 4, 2022, has been fully closed in a revolutionary study issued today, stated Space.com.
A celestial display unfolded as a rocket impacted with the moon’s far side, resulting in a strange twin crater spanning around 95 feet (29 meters) in breadth. Astronomers had been tracking the unusual trajectory of the renegade rocket for weeks and had properly predicted the precise place and time of impact.
The principal mystery centered on the identify of the impactor, which scientists dubbed WE0913A. Initial investigations suggested that it was the upper stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which launched the DSCOVR satellite in February 2015. Following studies, astronomers discovered a different culprit: the third and topmost stage of China’s Long March 3C rocket, which carried the unmanned Chang’e 5-T1 mission around the moon in October 2014.
Tanner Campbell, a doctorate student in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arizona (UA), led a team of researchers who presented a trajectory and spectroscopic analysis in a study that confirmed their prior result. The investigation, which was released on Thursday (Nov. 16), proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that WE0913A is the Long March 3C rocket body (R/B) from the Chang’e 5-T1 flight.
Despite this evidence, China has contested the findings, claiming that the top stage of the Long March 3C burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere immediately after the launch of Chang’e 5-T1. This contradicts a statement issued by the United States Space Command last year, which claimed that the object never reentered Earth’s atmosphere.
The new study not only solves the question of the impactor’s identification, but it also sheds more light on the unusual crater left by the March 2022 moon crash.
The light curve of WE0913A was examined by researchers, who compared it to hundreds of imaginary space objects generated by computer simulations. The data revealed distinct characteristics, implying that the object acted similarly to a steady, tumbling dumbbell. This is due to significant bulk at each end, most notably the two engines on the upper stage, which weigh a combined 2,400 pounds (1,090 kilograms) without fuel.
Tanner Campbell, the lead researcher, stated, “This is the first time we see a double crater in a moon impact,” referring to the identical size of the craters caused by the rocket body’s stable tumbling. The mystery mass, which is thought to be too huge for the usual sensor deck, has yet to be identified, forcing experts to hypothesize about its nature and purpose.
The discovery of WE0913A’s origin marks a key milestone in cosmic exploration as the scientific community unravels the secrets of this lunar occurrence.