Space debris to crash into the moon on 4th of March. But from whom?

Not SpaceX, not China... Whose junk is this?
Ameya Paleja
Representative image of space junkjaniecbros/ iStock

On March 4, a piece of space debris will crash onto our Moon. The object will hit the dark side of the Moon and the crash won't be visible from the Earth. More importantly, we do not know where that piece of space debris is coming from though.  

The imminent crash was first reported late last month using software to track near-earth objects such as asteroids and launch debris. When the report was released, the object was identified as the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk's SpaceX. The estimated launch date was approximately seven years ago, February of 2015 when the company was still perfecting its launches. 

It's not SpaceX, It is China

About a week ago, though, observers revisited their primary analysis to let Falcon 9 off the hook, since the payload it was carrying, the Deep Space Climate Observatory mission, or DSCOVR was in another part of the solar system. Instead, they found that the booster was more likely to have come from the Chang'e 5-T1 mission to the Moon that was launched by the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA). 

As we had reported in our last post, the Chang'e Mission was launched in October 2014 and had also completed a close lunar flyby in the same month making it an ideal candidate for the lunar impact. 

China Denies

However, in an interesting tale that has followed since after the Chinese foreign ministry has denied these claims. Calling its multi-billion-dollar space exploration a "conscientious" program that "upholds the long-term sustainability of activities in outer space," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said that the alleged booster had already entered the Earth's atmosphere and burnt entirely upon reentry. 

If China's claims are true then we really do not know whose trash is crashing into the far side of the moon and if we can't really keep track of how our own launches are crashing within a decade, imagine how bad the situation will be when we are launching tens of thousands of these every year. 

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