It looks like one of SpaceX’s abandoned rockets is on a collision course with the Moon. The event is calculated to happen in a few weeks, and will likely leave an observable crater on the surface. The chunk of the rocket is reported to be four tons and will smash into the surface of the Moon in March at about 5,500 miles per hour. Fortunately, this won’t really do any actual damage to the Moon and it’s probable that it’s not the first time it has happened.
The SpaceX rocket has actually been floating out in space for a while now. This particular rocket has been in the void for about seven years. It was deployed back in 2015 to help launch a NASA satellite into orbit known as the Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR. The impending crash was observed by astronomer Bill Gray. He first observed the rocket make a close call with the Moon in January, now its orbit is bringing it back around for an actual crash landing. Gray created Project Pluto, which is software designed for the trajectory of asteroids and other objects.
As mentioned, this probably isn’t the first time one of our rockets or satellites has hit the Moon. We probably just didn’t know about it. Astronomer John McDowell mentioned to AFP that plenty of objects were sent up throughout the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, but they weren’t tracked. But with this impending SpaceX collision and the continued launches of US and Chinese space programs in the future, it’s likely time that regulation will start to come into play. With increased traffic in Earth’s orbit, there’s going to need to be some sort of tracking going on.
With that being said, this is atypical for SpaceX rockets, and their current process for their launches may be a solution. When SpaceX launches most of their rockets and satellites, the boosters are remotely brought back to Earth’s atmosphere where they burn up. Other stages of the rocket are recovered and recycled.
SpaceX is known for its design and production of rockets engines, launch vehicles, spacecraft, and satellites. Many likely know of SpaceX because of their enigmatic founder Elon Musk, their satellite Internet services through Starlink, and their high-profile rocket launches. Recently, their Crew Dragon launches have been making the news rounds for their transportation of cargo to and from the ISS and their transportation of the Dragon Crew of astronauts as well. One of their more exciting future launches seeks to send astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since 1972. The Starship program will be in collaboration with NASA to put humans back on the surface.
Hopefully, when SpaceX and NASA send those next astronauts up to the Moon on Starship, they won’t have to worry about any errant space objects slamming into the surface. Though the Moon is fairly large, it’s always nice to make sure there are no unexpected variables to think about. Maybe more regulation on launches is called for after all.