NASA has spotted the crash site of a mysterious “runaway” rocket that hit the dark side of the moon in early March this year.
Images taken by the US space agency’s LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) on May 25 revealed a double crater formed by the rocket’s impact.
While the identity of the rocket body remains “unclear,” NASA revealed last week that the crater is actually “two craters”: one, an eastern crater about 60 feet (18 meters) in diameter that overlaps to a western crater 52 feet (16 meters) in diameter.
The new findings, according to Mark Robinson, principal investigator for the LRO camera team, may indicate that the rocket body that slammed into the lunar surface could have had large masses at each end.
“Usually a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the end of the motor; the remainder of the rocket stage consists primarily of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the dual nature of the crater may help indicate its identity,” said Dr. Robinson.
“No other rocket body impact on the Moon created double craters,” NASA noted in a blog post.
Some space experts say that if the impact had occurred at a shallow angle, it could have created a double crater.
The object, traveling through space at nearly 60,000 miles (96,500 kilometers) per hour, was initially suspected to be a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster rocket.
But scientists led by Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona in the US, who were closely monitoring the spin and light reflection of the spent rocket, suggested it might be of Chinese origin.
They said the space debris may have been the propellant part of a rocket that launched China’s Chang’e 5-T1 spacecraft to the moon in 2014, something China has denied.
While there have been several cases in the past of debris hitting the lunar surface, including the Soviet Union’s Luna 2 in 1959, experts said the rocket’s runaway collision was the first due to drifting space debris. space.