Wayward SpaceX rocket part will smash into the moon soon, experts say

local21news.com

ZACHARY ROGERS | The National Desk 3 – 4 minutes

WASHINGTON (TND) — Part of a rocket launched by a popular American aerospace company has gone off course and will reportedly crash into the moon in March.

SpaceX, founded by Tesla CEO and American entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched a rocket out of Florida back in Feb. 2015 as part of a mission to send a space-weather satellite a million miles away, according to meteorologist Eric Berger, writing for Ars Technica.

The rocket was reportedly hauling NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) and sending the satellite to what NASA calls a “Lagrange Point”.

“Lagrange points are positions in space where objects sent there tend to stay put,” NASA says. “At Lagrange points, the gravitational pull of two large masses precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small object to move with them. These points in space can be used by spacecraft to reduce fuel consumption needed to remain in position.”

This still image provided by SpaceX shows a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Space Force Station on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (SpaceX via AP)

After completing the initial long burn of its engines to send the satellite to a Lagrange Point, the detached second stage of the rocket reportedly became derelict. Experts strongly believe the rocket part will soon be crashing into the moon, as it did not escape Earth’s gravitational pull.

“So it has been following a somewhat chaotic orbit since February 2015,” Berger writes about the wayward rocket part.

Bill Gray, who wrote widely-used software used to track near-Earth objects, wrote a blog post about the pending impact.

This still image provided by SpaceX shows a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Space Force Station on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. (SpaceX via AP)

Space junk can be a little tricky. I have a fairly complete mathematical model of what the earth, moon, sun, and planets are doing and how their gravity is affecting the object,” Gray writes. “I have a rough idea of how much sunlight is pushing outward on the object, gently pushing it away from the sun. This usually enables me to make predictions with a good bit of confidence.

Gray says in the blog he predicts the rocket part will crash into the moon on March 4 around 12:25 p.m. He says the impact will probably be unobservable because, well, the moon will be in the way.

Harvard University astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell agrees with Gray’s predicted impact date, but adds “it’s interesting, but not a big deal.”

Berger and Gray both believe the crash could provide valuable data. Gray even says he is “rooting” for a lunar impact”.

“We already know what happens when junk hits the Earth; there’s not much to learn from that,” Gray says.

“This information is important because it will allow satellites presently orbiting the Moon… to collect observations about the impact crater,” Berger says. “Although scientists are most keen to understand the presence of ice at the lunar poles, being able to observe the subsurface material ejected by the Falcon 9 rocket’s strike could still provide some valuable data.”

https://local21news.com/news/offbeat/wayward-spacex-rocket-part-will-smash-into-the-moon-soon-experts-say-nasa-elon-musk-weather-satellite-deep-space-climate-observatory-eric-berger-bill-gray

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