At precisely 7:25:58 a.m. EST/12:25:58 Universal Time today a rocket part launched by China eight years ago should have struck the Moon while traveling at a speed of around 5,700 mph.
The debris is the third stage booster from the launch of a Long March 3C rocket that launched China’s Chang’e 5-T1 spacecraft from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on October 23, 2014. It has been orbiting in the Earth-Moon system ever since, though rather erratically.
A new physics-based animation generated using AGI, an Ansys company, shows exactly what happened when it crashed into the lunar surface close to Hertzsprung, an enormous lunar impact crater on the far side of Moon.
The event happened away from the view of any telescopes or orbiting spacecraft, so there was no “live” coverage. However, it’s possible that NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) or India’s Chandrayaan-2, both of which are in orbit around the Moon, will be able to photograph the new crater in the aftermath to confirm the impact.
Here’s the video, which simulates the rocket’s approach and impact:
The software used to produce the video—Systems Tool Kit (STK) and Orbit Determination Tool Kit (ODTK) software suites—are used by the space aerospace and defense community to simulate complex missions.
Chang’e 5-T1 was an experimental mission to test a capsule during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere in advance of the full Chang’e-5 mission, the first sample return mission for 45 years.
It successfully sent back valuable lunar rock samples to Earth in 2020, some of which are two billion years old, which makes them the youngest Moon rock scientists have.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
A Chinese Rocket Just Crashed Into The Moon. This New Video Shows You Exactly What Happened