China has been found to be the source of a mysterious crash on the moon, a case which has now been conclusively closed, according to a new study, as reported by Space.com. The study has found that the crashed vehicle was part of the Long March 3C launched as part of China’s 2014 Chang’e 5-T1 mission. The crash occurred on March 4, 2022 on the far side of the Moon and resulted in a double crater measuring some 95 feet (29 meters) across.
Researched Search For The Culprit
The rocket from China that crashed into the moon had been tracked for weeks by astronomers, who predicted with more remarkable precision the time and location of its impact. What was unknown at the time, however, was the origin of the rocket, which was designated by astronomers as WE0913A. At first, some believed it could have been a SpaceX rocket, specifically the upper stage of the Falcon 9 that set the DSCOVR satellite on its mission of Earth observation in February of 2015.
It was not long, however, before scientists began to suspect that China was the origin of the Moon-crashed vehicle. It was believed to be the third stage, that is the uppermost stage, of the Long March 3C rocket from China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission. That mission was uncrewed and went around the Moon in October of 2014.
Team From The University Of Arizona Finds Proof It Was A Chinese Vehicle
A paper published on November 16 in the Planetary Science Journal confirms China as the origin of the mysterious moon crash, a conclusion arrived at by a team of researchers. That team was headed by University of Arizona doctoral student Tanner Campbell of the university’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. They present their findings in the paper as both conclusion and confirmation, based on “a trajectory and spectroscopic analysis using ground-based telescope observations.”
China Claims It Didn’t Crash Into The Moon
While China claims the upper stage of the Long March 3C did not crash on the moon, but was incinerated in Earth’s atmosphere not long after the Chang’e 5-T1’s launch, U.S. Space Command said in 2022 that the object, in fact, never fell back toward the planet. The new study confirms this, using both the materials that comprise WE0913A and the ways in which it was moving as the primary evidence for their finding. The study also reveals more details about the unusual crater that was formed by the crash.
Impact Leaves A Double Crater
The rocket from China made an unusual impression on the Moon, a double crater that has not been seen in a lunar impact before. This odd shape could only be caused by the direct Descent of the object onto the lunar surface if it had something of a dumbbell shape with almost equal masses on either end. Studying the way the brightness of the object changed over time during his descent led the researchers, through computer simulations, to conclude that the object was rotating end over end as it fell.
What Caused The Crash?
China’s rocket did have the mass of its engines at one end, though it’s not entirely clear what Mass on the other end helped make the double crater on the Moon. Most likely, the mass was that of the crafts instrument panel, though that panel does not quite have enough Mass to counterbalance the engines in the the way in which the rotation during descent seemed to indicate.
Without further information from China, the researchers say they may never know exactly what the masses on either end of the object were, but the size, trajectory, and material makeup of the object confirm it is indeed the rogue Chinese rocket stage.