You may have heard that a piece of space debris is due to crash into the Moon in early March. However, it looks like it is not a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stage as earlier presumed.
According to an update by Bill Gray, the object on a collision course with the Moon is a Chinese Long March 3C rocket stage.
Bill Gray is a well known and respected astronomer who whore the Project Pluto software that racks near-Earth objects.
As per Project Pluto, the object is named WE0913A and was first spotted in 2015. The misidentification came as SpaceX had just launched NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite a few days earlier, and astronomers put two and two together.
However, after news started spreading about the impending impact, Jon Giorgini at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab knew something was amiss. The SpaceX Falcon 9 that deployed DSCOVR would not take it close to the Moon.
This meant that the rocket could not have passed the Moon two days after its launch.
So, Gray went back to the drawing board. He discovered that the rocket was the booster state of a Long March 3C rocket. The rocket was part of China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission to the Moon.
The mission launched on October 23, 2014, and the discarded booster stage disappeared.
If calculations are correct, the now correctly identified booster section will impact the far side of the Moon on March 4, 2022, around 12:25 UTC.