SpaceX Rocket Set To Crash Into The Moon On March 4th

Ahh—a rocket is about to hit the moon! It sounds like something you’d hear in a book, but alas: This is real life.

The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, which was launched in February 2015, is carrying NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) throughout space. After four months, the satellite reached its destination, more than 620,000 miles from Earth. However, it wasn’t able to make a straightforward descent back to Earth.

Without enough fuel to return in as straightforward of a manner, the rocket has been orbiting space somewhat wildly. “It has been following a somewhat chaotic orbit since February 2015,” wrote Eric Berger, a meteorologist and senior space editor at tech news website Ars Technica.

Berger discussed projections from the developer of software that tracks near-Earth objects, Bill Gray, who believes—no, is certain that—the rocket is going to hit the moon in the next few weeks—on March 4, 2022. Gray predicts that the rocket’s upper stage will hit the dark side of the moon traveling at 5,771 mph (9,288 km/h).

In his recent blog post on Project Pluto, Gray says that the rocket has “made a close lunar flyby on January 5” but is set for “a certain impact at March 4.”

In 2009, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite was fired into the moon’s south pole at 5,600 mph (9,000 km/h), unleashing a plume that allowed scientists to detect the key signatures of water ice.

This isn’t the first time a satellite will crash into the moon. In 2009, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite was intentionally shot into the moon to help detect the key signatures of water ice. However, this IS the first time that a crash like this will unintentionally happen. “This is the first unintentional case [of rocket debris hitting the moon] of which I am aware,” Gray wrote.

Gray has forecast that the long, cylindrical rocket stage should land somewhere around the moon’s equator at its far side, meaning that the impact will likely go unobserved. But its trajectory isn’t certain and could be altered by a few factors, including radiation pressure from sunlight, which could cause the rocket to tumble sideways.

According to Gray, the rocket is likely to land around the moon’s equator at its far side—the “dark side”—so the impact isn’t really going to affect us here on Earth. While he feels certain of the day it’ll crash, the course of action isn’t as clear. Things like radiation pressure from sunlight and other factors, he says, may cause the rocket to turn sideways and land elsewhere.

“Space junk can be a little tricky,” Gray explained. “I have a fairly complete mathematical model of what the Earth, Moon, Sun and planets are doing and how their gravity is affecting the object. I have a rough idea of how much sunlight is pushing outward on the object, gently pushing it away from the Sun … However, the actual effects of that sunlight are hard to predict perfectly. It doesn’t just push outward; some of it bounces ‘sideways.'”

Interesting, huh? To learn more about what to expect, check out the video below!

What do you think about this rocket about to crash into the moon?