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Newly Formed ‘Double Crater’ On Moon Puzzles Scientists

crater on the moon
A double crater on the moon. Credit: pxfuel

NASA announced last week that there is a new “double crater” on the moon, but no country is claiming responsibility for the impact.

The double crater is the combination of two craters, both roughly 19.5 yards and 17.5 yards in diameter, and according to NASA, is possibly the result of a projectile that had “large masses at each end.”

This, however, may not be the case. “Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank,” NASA wrote.

NASA said “no other rocket body impacts” on the moon have caused a double crater. This was the first time a piece of space junk unintentionally hit the lunar surface that experts know of. However, craters have resulted from spacecraft being deliberately crashed into the moon.

For example, four large moon craters attributed to the Apollo 13, 14, 15 and 17 missions are all much larger than each of the overlapping craters created during the March 4th impact. However, the maximum width of the new double crater is similar to the Apollo craters.

The exact origin of the rocket body, a piece of space junk that had been careening around for years, is unclear, so the double crater could help astronomers determine what it was.

The moon lacks a protective atmosphere, so it’s littered with craters created when objects, such as asteroids, regularly slam into the surface.

Crater on the moon caused by China’s rocket?

Astronomer Bill Gray, in an interview with Live Science, claimed he was “fairly convinced” that the object was the “spent upper stage” of China’s Chang’e 5-T1 rocket.

Gray predicted the rocket’s debris would hit the moon after he saw it in space in 2015, Live Science reported.

He initially thought the debris was a SpaceX rocket, the news site explained but later marked it as a rocket launched by China in 2014.

Chinese officials claimed its rocket “burned up” and returned to Earth in 2014 despite the U.S. Department of Defense’s space junk tracking Space Command saying it was still in space in March, Live Science reported.

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