November 30, 2023

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A Chinese booster, with an undeclared payload, crashed on the moon and created two new craters

A Chinese booster, with an undeclared payload, crashed on the moon and created two new craters

A study conducted by researchers from University of Arizona And published in Planetary Science Journal It has been decided that the Chinese missile booster Long March 3CI started to 2014crashed in March 2022 against moonAfter 8 years of wandering in space. The impact site was photographed by the probe Lunar reconnaissanceTwo new craters appear to have formed on the surface of the moon, separated by about 30 meters. According to researchers, this unusual event is due to the fact that propellant may have been present Undeclared payload China That created the second crater when it crashed.

While the Chinese Space Agency claimed that the rocket’s propellant burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere upon its return, the US Space Command said. He confirmed that the third stage of the missile never entered the Earth’s atmosphere“, they confirm in A launch.

Long March 3C was launched into space with this mission Changyi 5-T1 On board, in October 2014. This was training for another mission to bring lunar soil samples to Earth using an experimental robotic spacecraft that was eventually carried out in 2020under the name Zhang 5. The Long March 3C was a Chinese missile. Three stages Which was in service between 1984 and 2000, and was mainly intended for launching communications satellites. In the Chang’e 5-T1 mission, one of the goals was to test the atmospheric re-entry of a capsule similar to that of the future Chang’e 5 mission.

The length of the third stage of the Long March is 3C 7.48 metresQatar 2.25 metresengine YF-73 And the block before loading buzz. The booster provided the thrust that propelled the payloads into lunar orbit, and once exhausted, the orbital module and sample return capsule were jettisoned. And he was abandoned. This is standard procedure for rocket boosters once they have served their purpose.

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This third stage was discovered by researchers in 2015 and was then named WE0913AWithout knowing yet its origin. They continued their path between the Moon and Earth for a while 7 years Until it collides with the satellite in 2022.

At first they thought it could belong to the upper stage of the rocket Falcon 9 to SpaceX Interview for the task discover conducted in 2015. Using advanced telescopes, the team analyzed the missile’s light reflection pattern and movement.

“Something that has been in space all this time Subject to the gravitational forces of the Earth and the MoonAnd sunlight, so you’d expect it to wobble a bit, especially when you take into account that the rocket’s body is a big, empty shell with a heavy motor on one side. But this continued from end to end, In a very stable way“, he explained Tanner Campbellone of the study’s authors.

In other words, the rocket had to have propellant A type of counterweight to balance the mass of the missile. “We know that the booster had an instrument platform mounted on its upper end, but it only weighed about 27 kilograms. We perform Torque balance analysisWhich showed that this amount of weight would have moved the center of gravity of the missile by a few centimetres. It was not enough to explain its stable rotation. This is what It leads us to believe that there must be something else installed in the foreground“.

This unusual movement was one of the reasons that led them to believe that “The abandoned rocket likely carried an additional, undisclosed payload“. It was another that the fan created Two holes When it collides with the dark side of the moon, which is separated by about 30 meters, which supports the hypothesis that There was additional mass in the rocket body.

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Campbell explains that the crater resulting from the missile’s impact is round if it falls to the bottom, and rectangular if it enters at a shallow angle. He says: “This is the first time we have seen a double crater.” We know that in the case of Chang’e 5 T1, its impact was almost directly downward, and For these two nozzles to be approximately the same size, two approximately equal masses separated from each other are required.“.

What additional charge caused the second hole? Researchers admit that they cannot know this, and that it will certainly remain a mystery. “We obviously have no idea what it might be: maybe some additional support structures, or additional tools, or something else. Maybe we’ll never knowCampbell noted.