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IPFS News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Moon mystery: Who launched the rocket that will slam into the lunar far side?

•, By Leonard David

There's an ongoing saga about the object that will smash into the far side of the moon early next month.

First thought to be the upper stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the DSCOVR Earth-observation spacecraft in February 2015, it was then tagged as a leftover from the launch of China's Chang'e 5-T1 lunar mission in 2014. During a press briefing on Feb. 21, however, China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that cannot be the case, as the Chang'e 5-T1 upper stage burned up completely in Earth's atmosphere shortly after liftoff.

But the person who led the discovery of the coming lunar impact, which is predicted to occur on the far side on March 4, isn't buying China's claim. 

"There really is no good reason at this point to think the object is anything other than the Chang'e 5-T1 booster," Bill Gray, who manages the Project Pluto software used to track near-Earth objects, told Inside Outer Space. "Anybody claiming otherwise has a pretty large hill of evidence to overcome."

Tracking confusion?

"We do have a small mystery, in that the [U.S.] 18th Space Control Squadron lists this booster (the same one I'm saying will hit the moon) as having instead hit the Earth's atmosphere in October 2015, almost a year after launch," Gray explained. "But the only trajectory data they provide are for shortly after launch. If that's all they had to work with, then the reentry date is a prediction a year ahead of time and is not particularly meaningful."

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