(ORDO NEWS) — A piece of space debris that is supposed to crash into the Moon in early March may not be a SpaceX rocket at all.
According to an update posted by astronomer Bill Gray, who wrote the Project Pluto software used to track near-Earth objects, the object in the collision path is not the ejected stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, but the stage of China’s Long March 3C rocket.
The object is named WE 0913 A , and whatever its identity, its calculated trajectory remains correct. It should collide with the dark side of the Moon on March 4, 2022, around 12:25 UTC.
The initial misidentification of WE 0913 A was made back in 2015, after a SpaceX rocket delivered NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory ( DSCOVR ) satellite into low Earth orbit . Typically, rocket stages are left in space after their payload has been delivered; they typically de-orbit and burn up on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
WE 0913 A was first seen in 2015 and was initially thought to be an asteroid . Gray identified it after discovering that WE 0913 A passed by the Moon two days after the launch of the DSCOVR mission .
However, when he figured out that WE 0913 A was about to collide with the moon, and the news spread, someone noticed something was wrong.
John Georgini of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which tracks active spacecraft, noted that DSCOVR ‘s orbit does not bring it closer to the moon. This raised questions about how the rocket could have missed the Moon two days after launch.
After carefully examining the new data, scientists have concluded that the most likely object is an object called 2014-065B, the upper stage of the Long March 3C rocket that was used to launch China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission to the moon. This mission started on October 23, 2014; the ejected booster stage subsequently disappeared.
Therefore, the object that is about to hit the Moon on March 4, 2022 at 12:25 UTC is actually the Chang’e 5-T1 rocket stage.”
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