NASA Baffled By A Rocket That Slammed Into The Moon Leaving A Double Crater

rocket crater
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured images of a rocket impact that created a double crater on the moon. The rocket that caused the lunar crater is believed to be from a Chinese Long March 3C rocket booster, though that has not been definitively confirmed.

Earlier this year a large object in space was predicted to impact the moon on March 4th, and had been tracked for months by astronomers. Bill Gray, a developer building software for professional astronomers, first thought the space debris was from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. He later changed his mind, indicating he believed it to instead be from a Chinese Long March 3C rocket. Now images have been shared by NASA showing the impact crater believed to have been made by the space debris back in March of this year, which left a strange double crater on the lunar surface.

In a post from NASA on its website, the space agency said it was surprised the indentation was actually two craters. The image shows an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards). The fact the impact from the rocket body left a double crater has NASA speculating that the responsible "rocket body had large masses at each end."

apollo craters
Image Credit: NASA

Normally a spent rocket will have its mass concentrated at the motor end, with the rest of the rocket-stage mainly consisting of an empty fuel tank. NASA stated that while the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the fact it left a double crater may indicate its identity. However, NASA has not yet said what that identity may be.

There have been other rocket body impacts in the past for NASA to compare the most recent one to (see image above). There are four other craters on the moon created by past Apollo missions. While the craters left by the four Apollo missions (Apollos 13, 14, 15, 17) were a bit irregular in shape, they were substantially larger (greater than 35 meters, about 38 yards) than the recent double craters.

Bill Gray still stands by his identification of the Chinese Long March 3C rocket as being the object that caused the double crater. "I can't say the double crater proves things one way or the other," Gray stated in an interview with The Register. "That bit is a head-scratcher. I don't think this will tell us anything about whether it's the Chang'e 5-T1 booster. We basically have that nailed from other information. And the selenologists, who know a lot more about crater formation than I do, may come up with a completely different reason as to how a perfectly normal bit of rocket hardware could generate twin craters."

Top Image Credit: NASA