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Mysterious space junk that crashed into Moon was Chinese in origin

Published Nov 20th, 2023 4:27PM EST
most detailed image of the Moon ever taken from Earth
Image: NRAO/GBO/Raytheon/NSF/AUI

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Three tons of space junk slammed into the Moon last year, leaving many bewildered and scratching their heads because they weren’t sure where the junk had come from. Now, though, we’re pretty sure it was leftover pieces from a Chinese rocket, and some reports indicate the space junk might have had a mysterious object onboard when it crashed into the Moon’s surface.

The mysterious object crashed into the Moon on March 4, 2022. Knock as WE0913A, the object crashed into the surface of the Moon and left behind an unusually shaped double-crater. Initial reports around the object believed it could have been part of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. However, later evidence shifted the blame for the unregulated space junk to China’s Change’3 5-T1 mission.

China has continued to deny any involvement in the origins of the space junk. Some researchers hope to finally put the matter to bed and prove that the space junk that crashed into the Moon was part of China’s Long March rocket, which launched Chang’e 5-T1 into orbit. 

This NASA image showcases where a separate booster rocket crashed into the lunar surface. Image source: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

To prove that, a team of scientists at the University of Arizona, California Institute of Technology, Project Pluto, and the Planetary Science Institute worked together to map the object’s trajectory. According to that trajectory, WE0913A is believed to have been part of the rocket that launched Chang’e 5-T1. 

The researchers also found evidence that the abandoned rocket stage likely carried an “undisclosed, additional payload,” too. So, while China was not only responsible for the space junk that crashed into the Moon’s surface, it also had something onboard that nobody could identify. It’s unlikely China will ever spill the beans on the additional payload, either.

Of course, the possibility of something additional being onboard is all based on evidence captured of the object’s descent to the Moon. As it fell, the object did not appear to wobble, which the scientists say means it was balanced out with some significantly heavy enough to act as a counterweight for the two engines, both of which weighed around 1,200 pounds.

The real mystery here will undoubtedly continue as China has never been very open about its space endeavors.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.