(Washington) It wasn’t planned, but SpaceX will finally land on the moon this year…albeit not in one piece. The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket will crash into the lunar surface in March, according to astronomers who have recalculated the trajectory of the vehicle, which has been abandoned into space since its launch seven years ago.
Posted at 4:49 p.m.
The rocket was used in 2015 to orbit a climate-monitoring satellite on Earth, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).
Since then, the spacecraft’s second stage has been floating in space in an orbit that mathematicians have called “chaos” because it is difficult to predict, astronomer Bill Gray told AFP Wednesday.
The object passed close to the Moon in early January, altering its orbit, and has detailed the innovative “Project Pluto,” a program for calculating the paths of asteroids and other objects, used by NASA-funded observing programs.
A week later, the expert was able to observe the piece of the rocket again, and realized that it should collide with the other side of the moon on March 4.
After appealing to amateur astronomers to make additional observations, the data was confirmed.
The craft will hit the lunar surface at a speed of more than 9,000 km / h.
Accurately a few minutes and kilometres, time and space can still change, due to the unpredictable effect on this hollow cylinder of sunlight, pushing it in a remarkable way.
The rocket’s phase can be observed again in early February, and the estimate has been revised. But the collision is certain.
“I’ve been tracking space junk like this for about 15 years, and this is the first unintended impact on the Moon” to be detected, said Bill Gray.
space waste regulation
According to astronomer Jonathan McDowell, similar effects may have occurred in the past, without our knowledge.
“There were at least 50 objects left in deep space in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, just left untracked,” he told AFP.
Today’s sights you don’t find them all. “It is possible that some of them accidentally hit the moon,” he said.
Next March, the explosion of this nearly four-ton body will not be visible from Earth when it occurs.
But it is expected to cause a crater that can later be observed by scientists, including NASA’s LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) spacecraft or India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft. Lunar geology.
Ships have been deliberately launched onto the Moon for scientific purposes in the past, such as during the Apollo missions to test seismometers. In 2009, NASA sent a second stage rocket to crash into an area near the Moon’s south pole to study the presence of water.
Many of SpaceX’s rockets are launched a shorter distance, usually allowing the second stage to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, where it disintegrates over the ocean. The first floor has been restored and reused.
But these unplanned lunar effects could multiply in the future, according to Bill Gray, particularly because of the things US or Chinese lunar programs will leave behind. In particular, the United States wants to build a station in orbit around the Moon.
These events “will start to cause problems when there is more traffic,” Jonathan McDowell noted.
“It is no one’s business to follow the path of the waste we leave in deep space,” recalls the expert today. It’s time to start organizing it. »
Called, SpaceX did not respond to AFP. Elon Musk’s company is currently developing a probe that should allow NASA to return Americans to the Moon no later than 2025.
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