“This is probably the first unintentional impact on the surface of the moon created by man,” Former NASA astronaut Jose Hernández told NewsNation.
Experts don’t know for sure where the 3-4 ton piece of space junk hit the moon, as that area doesn’t have telescopes, but they estimate impact happened at about 6:25 a.m. It could take weeks to determine the exact size and location of the crater.
The rocket, used to propel satellites and spacecraft into orbit, is designed to fall back to earth. But it’s been tumbling haphazardly through space since it was launched nearly a decade ago.
Experts say China sent the rocket into space nearly a decade ago, but Chinese officials deny it’s theirs. SpaceX, the company owned by Elon Musk, was originally reported as the owner of the space junk after an asteroid tracker identified the collision course in January, but the tracker later corrected himself and said it was not them.
“Any country is going to deny, deny, deny,” Hernández said. “They don’t want to be known as the first country that sent an errant third-stage rocket booster to the surface of the moon.”
No matter whose rocket it is, the result of the collision won’t be more than a dent in the moon that’s probably about 65 feet in diameter— wide enough to fit several tractor-trailers inside.
While this won’t affect people on Earth, experts are nervous about the amount of space junk floating around the solar system.
“We’re not at a huge problem right now, but if we don’t do anything in the next decade…I think it’s going to be a lot worse,” John Crassidis, professor of applied sciences at the University at Buffalo said.
It could take weeks to determine the exact size and location of the crater.