The Chinese gave the world a Zen riddle. If a three ton hunk of space junk hits the Moon where nobody can see it, will the impact leave a crater? The answer is heck yes. A big one. Since the Chang’e 5-T1 is clocked at 5,800 MPH, physicists figure it will leave a crater around 66 feet across.
Impact on dark side
The famous dark side of the Moon should have been whapped with the big impact by now. It was scheduled for 07:25 a.m. ET March 4. The Chinese can’t even hide the evidence there.
While nobody on Earth can visualize what happened, especially not in real time, there are some cameras floating around which should be able to image the effects when they orbit into range. China’s Jade Rabbit rover won’t be able to hop over, but either the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or Chandrayaan-2 will loop over the site sooner or later.
When astronomers first noticed the hunk of space junk on a collision course with the Moon, they blamed it on Elon Musk. He beat the rap when they said in 2015 that SpaceX has an airtight alibi. The math says it wasn’t him.
The prime suspect quickly shifted to the Chinese but Beijing still pleads innocent. The guys at NASA hope to have “confirmation of the 5,800mph impact in the coming days, or weeks.”
Xi Jinping doesn’t want the world record for first piece of space junk to accidentally impact the lunar surface. But he’s getting stuck with it anyway.
Everyone who matters is convinced that it’s part of Chang’e 5-T1. That’s described as “an experimental robotic spacecraft that was launched to the moon on October 23, 2014.”
Atmospheric re-entry tests
The whole purpose of the Chang’e 5-T1 mission was to “conduct atmospheric re-entry tests on the capsule design.” They lost track of a booster rocket. Nothing really disappears in space and it turned back up, headed for a resting place somewhere on the Moon.
The voyage was long and slow but it finally arrived. Of course, we couldn’t watch the fun. The good news is the impact didn’t hit any of our leftover Apollo landmarks.
It turns out that low-orbiting space junk is “relatively easy to track” but anything headed out to deep space are ignored.
Experts weren’t counting on Luna’s gravity well sucking in the space junk the Chinese blasted out to infinity. Until they realized it would eventually have an impact.
Back in 2014, Chinese ministry officials claimed the “upper stage had re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and burned up.” They lied. U.S. Space Command is in charge of tracking this stuff now. They “confirmed Tuesday that the Chinese upper stage from the 2014 lunar mission never deorbited, as previously indicated in its database.”
They weren’t going to cause an international incident by pointing the finger. “But it could not confirm the country of origin for the object” about to impact the moon. A spokesperson insists, “We focus on objects closer to the Earth.“