the Planetary Science JournalAccording to research published in 2019, there is conclusive evidence that the object was the upper stage of a Chinese launch vehicle and its mysterious payload, which collided with the surface of the moon in March 2022, leaving behind a double crater.
The space junk, known since 2015 under registration number WE0913A, is mysterious because it was initially thought to be the remains of a SpaceX Falcon-9 launch vehicle, and it was later suggested it could be one of the stages of China’s Long March. Launch vehicle 3C. China officially denied the latter, saying that the missile in question burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere years ago.
According to the analysis, the stage was the Chang’o-5T1 test carrier, which was preparing for the Chang’o-5 mission that brought a sample from the moon.
According to the researchers, the Chinese space debris scenario is proven by the fact that the light reflected from the object and comparison of simulations closely matches the motion of Chang’o-5T1.
Anything that spends this long in space is subject to the gravity of the Earth, the Moon, and sunlight, so we would expect it to wobble a bit, especially since the rocket stage is an empty shell with a heavy rocket stage at the end. It rotated along its edges and was very stable
said Tanner Campbell, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona and author of the study.
Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Western experts were particularly surprised by the double crater created by the impact, although many unguided objects have already collided with the Moon.
According to the analysis, the space junk had two centers of mass and had the same mass. This led to the collision of the object, which struck at a speed of 9,290 kilometers per hour, creating two craters of approximately the same size.
It follows that not only was there a rocket stage, but there was also mass associated with it, that is, it was transmitting something – which we will probably never discover.
This was not the first device to collide with the Moon, as NASA specialists regularly direct their devices that turn into space debris to the surface at the end of their mission, which opens the possibility of gaining additional scientific knowledge, such as examining the water content of the material ejected from the surface as a result of the collision.
At the end of his study, Campbell pointed out that this case also shows how important it is to track the path of waste circulating in space.