You know you live in space when a rocket reaches the moon, and the industry as a whole points to the sky and, like an angry teacher holding a paper plane, asks “Who started this ?!” In fact, this is exactly what happened this week when an unidentified rocket stage (!) Hit the surface of the moon, creating a new and exciting crater and we all wondered how it is possible not to We know what happened.
The short version of this story is that astronomers led by Bill Gary have been pursuing something for months that, according to their calculations, will soon affect the moon. It was apparently a piece of rock debris (the rockets produce a ton of debris), but no one stepped in to say, “Yeah, that’s ours, sorry about that.”
Based on their observations and discussions, these self-employed (albeit in no sense a specialist) objectors decided that it was likely to be a piece of the SpaceX launch car from 2015 onwards. But SpaceX didn’t do that and after a while. Gray and others, including NASA, decided that it was more likely to launch the 2014 Chang 5-T1 outside China. China has denied the allegations, saying the launcher in question burned down during re-entry.
Maybe they are telling the truth. Perhaps they don’t want to be responsible for the first completely unexpected lunar effect in history. Other spacecraft attacked the moon, but it was intentional or part of the lower ground (in other words, the effect was intentional, just a little harder than expected) – not just a pathway piece of space debris.
Maybe we’ll never know, and really, that’s the weirdest part of it all. With hundreds of ground-based binoculars and radars, space-based sensor networks and cameras pinpoint every path – and that’s just space surveillance we know about! – It seems amazing that the entire phase of the rocket sat in orbit for six or seven years, eventually all the way to reach the moon without being identified.
I thought someone at LeoLabs who was creating a new network of tracking radar around the world might have less insight. Darren McKnight, High Technical Fellow, had the following answers to my questions.
How is it possible that we do not know the identity and path of such a large and relatively recent entity?
Tracking distant objects in the Cellular Orbit is likely not a high priority for government sensors when they can spend this time looking at a satellite or satellite that is close to Earth. However, tracking and monitoring operational satellites in Cessna orbit is, in fact, very important for strategic intelligence, as it is a new high ground.
Would such confusion be possible for the now-initiated object?
Yes, this could happen again because the technology used by the US government to track space objects has not changed in many years.
Is it possible that these “mystery things” will have an impact here and there in the next few years?
It is possible that a sudden lunar attack will happen again in the future, depending on the number of missions that put rocket bodies into these orbits and given enough time (years or decades). But incidents like this should generally be kept to a minimum.
And as Bill Gary notes in his post:
… High-altitude densities are of no concern to anyone outside of the steroid survey, and even we are not so confused about it. Such things are not pursued by the United States Air Force. They use (mostly) radar, which is ‘near sight’: it can track objects in low orbit up to four inches / 10 centimeters, but can’t see large rocket stages like this when they’re as far away as the moon. وي. You need binoculars for this.
Strange as it may seem (to me, however), the orbits are only accounted for by me, in my spare time, for such things.
This is remarkable in a way, but as someone in the world of space surveillance will tell you, there is so much to see here and you have to choose your goals. Getting a good picture of a rock-sized object in the middle of the moon is not simple or easy.
Our best clue as to the identity of the object may actually be the trench it left at the time of the collision. The location of the impact is pictured shortly afterwards and it has an interesting double-O shape: two layered craters, one 18 meters long and the other 16 meters long. Here are the before and after:
“The double crater was unexpected and may have indicated that the body of the rocket has a large mass at each end. Usually a consumable rocket has a mass concentration at the end of the motor; the rest of the rocket phase is mainly empty of fuel. Has a tank, ”wrote NASA’s Mark Robinson.
While this is an interesting mystery, the fact remains that there doesn’t seem to be much reason to dedicate any serious resources to finding it. Strange things happen in space as a piece of rock flies at an angle and speed that would eventually be necessary to attack the moon. And for all of us who know someone out there well know what this weird, two-dimensional space garbage is but it will keep quiet.