An old Chinese rocket, and not the one from the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX company, is set to crash into the lunar surface on March 4, Bill Gray, an astronomer running Project Pluto, has predicted.
Gray earlier said that the Moon would get a fresh crater thanks to a chunk of a SpaceX rocket that blasted off seven years ago and was abandoned in space after completing its mission and is on a collision course with the lunar surface.
Now, he has changed his prediction in a big way, saying the old rocket is not an old Falcon 9 part but an old Chinese rocket instead.
“We now have good evidence that it is actually 2014-065B, the booster for the Chang’e 5-T1 lunar mission. It will, however, still hit the moon within a few kilometers of the predicted spot on March 4, 2022 at 12:25 UTC, within a few seconds of the predicted time,” Gray said in a new blog post.
“The preceding candidate launch was the Chang’e 5-T1 mission, launched at 18:00 UTC on October 23, 2014. Its booster was (we thought) never seen,” he added.
Gray admitted that identifying objects like this isn’t always as solid as we’d want it to be.
“I had pretty good circumstantial evidence for the identification, but nothing conclusive,” Gray said.
Gray is now convinced that this object is a leftover piece of a Chinese rocket, specifically a Long March 3C that launched China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission to the Moon.
“It’s unclear when the Chang’e 5-T1 booster would have gone by the moon, but four days after launch would be a reasonable ballpark estimate. Running the orbit for WE0913A further backward, I got a lunar flyby on October 28, 2014,” he wrote.
In a sense, this remains “circumstantial” evidence.
“But I would regard it as fairly convincing evidence. So I am persuaded that the object about to hit the moon on March 4, 2022 at 12:25 UTC is actually the Chang’e 5-T1 rocket stage”.