In a celestial mystery that unfolded last year, a peculiar object crashed into the Moon, leaving scientists puzzled about its origin and purpose. Now, researchers from the University of Arizona claim to have cracked the case, asserting that it was a booster from a Chinese space rocket carrying a mysterious payload.
On March 4, 2022, an unidentified object hurtled towards the Moon’s surface, creating two craters and sparking speculation among scientists. The University of Arizona (UArizona) research team, in a paper published in the Planetary Science Journal, presents what they term as “definitive proof” that the object was a booster from a Chinese space rocket, challenging initial assumptions of it being a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket booster.
Analyzing the precise reflection of light signals off its surface, the researchers identified the object as likely belonging to a Chang’e 5-T1, part of China’s lunar exploration program launched in 2014. Despite China’s space agency initially denying ownership, the US Space Command contradicted this, stating that the rocket’s third stage did not re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
Two key pieces of evidence intrigued the researchers. Firstly, the stable rotation of the booster, despite expectations of wobbling due to gravitational forces and sunlight. Lead author Tanner Campbell explained that the object’s consistent end-over-end tumbling indicated the presence of a counterweight or additional mass, suggesting a more complex structure.
Secondly, the impact on the Moon created two craters instead of the expected single one. Campbell highlighted the unusual nature of this double crater, indicating the need for two roughly equal masses apart from each other during impact.
Despite the meticulous investigation, the research team remains unable to identify the nature of the additional object carried by the booster. Campbell admitted, “We have no idea what it might have been – perhaps some extra support structure, additional instrumentation, or something else. We probably won’t ever know.”
The lunar mystery adds an element of intrigue to space exploration, emphasizing the undisclosed aspects of missions and the potential for hidden payloads in space activities. The crash prompts further exploration into the depths of lunar secrets and the complexities of space endeavors.