A piece of Chinese spacecraft smashed into the moon in March 2022. Scientists recently discovered that the piece of space junk left a strange double pockmark on the lunar surface. Researchers from the University of Arizona published a new study in the Planetary Science Journal, explaining that there is a doubt that the space debris which smashed the moon in early 2022 belong to a Chinese Long March 3C rocket booster.
The study also reveals that the debris left a mysterious double crater as the debris arrived the moon’s surface with an undisclosed payload. Scientists previously suggested that the debris belonged to SpaceX Falcon 9 booster. However, further investigation enabled researchers to discover that it was the launcher for China’s Chang’e lunar rover mission, which was launched a year before.
Chinese Space Agency eventually denied that the debris was part of its space mission. But the US Space Command insists that the probe’s upper stage never made it back to our atmosphere. This implies that it would be floating somewhere close to Earth, or the moon.
What Could Be This Mysterious Thing that is part of Chinese spacecraft?
The new study suggests that there is a high chance that the debris that struck the moon in March 2022 was the Long March 3C rocket. The researchers reveal that the mysterious double crater the impact created shows that it was carrying something strange.
But what could be this strange object? Researchers that conducted the study relied on guess work to make conclusion. The researchers observed closely and suggested that the Chinese spacecraft was carrying something heavy. This heavy object made it tumble in space before crash landing on the moon.
“Something that’s been in space as long as this is subjected to forces from the Earth’s and the Moon’s gravity and the light from the Sun,” UA aerospace doctoral student Tanner Campbell said in a school press release about the research. “So, you would expect it to wobble a little bit, particularly when you consider that the rocket body is a big empty shell with a heavy engine on one side. But this was just tumbling end-over-end, in a very stable way.”
The object attached to the rocket appeared to be massive enough to counterbalance its two 1,200-pound engines, thereby making it to tumble before the crash. However, the team closely examined the booster’s known payload. They discovered that an object of a suitable mass was probably missing from the list.
“Obviously, we have no idea what it might have been — perhaps some extra support structure, or additional instrumentation, or something else,” Campbell said. “We probably won’t ever know.”
The team published their findings in the Planetary Science Journal.