You’ve heard about space junk, but it’s time to get familiar with moon junk. No, moon junk isn’t some weird rash; it’s the crap that humans will carelessly dump on Earth’s only lunar body in the coming decades. And who’s better to kick off the moon junk era than SpaceX?
Update, 2/16/22: NASA now says that the object on a collision course with the moon is actually a Chinese Chang’e 5-T1 booster that launched back in 2014. It’s not a SpaceX rocket.
This misidentification highlights why NASA and other large groups need to track space junk. The organization previously agreed with independent researcher Bill Gray’s assessment that a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket would hit the moon.
Bill Gray, an independent researcher in orbital dynamics, recently started tracking a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that’s orbiting the moon. The rocket’s been floating around aimlessly since 2015, when it blasted out of Earth’s atmosphere to help test a space weather satellite.
But something strange happened when Bill Gray asked his computer to predict the rocket’s future orbit. The computer simply refused to predict any information after March 4th, 2022.
That’s because the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is on a collision course with the moon.
Bill Gray’s data is now backed up by other researchers, who say that the Falcon 9 rocket will crash into our moon sometime this March. The rocket weighs four metric tons and will hit the moon at a velocity of about 5,770 mph, leaving behind a new crater and a bunch of litter.
The moon itself will be fine. If the scientific community decided not to tell us about this crash, we’d literally never know the difference. But this big goof from SpaceX raises questions about our future impact on outer space and highlights the growing space junk problem that humans are creating.
According to NASA, the crap that’s floating around our planet is dangerous for both satellites and manned spacecraft, such as the ISS or crewed shuttles. Even the tiniest particles, like pieces of chipped paint, can damage spacecraft as it slings at 17,500 mph around the Earth.
While scientists and independent companies hope to remove space junk in the future, such efforts may never extend to the moon. Rockets like the Falcon 9 are supposed to fall back to Earth and burn up in our atmosphere when they’re out of juice, but it’s easy to imagine how the moon might become our Plan B dumping ground for future rockets.
The fact that this information came from an independent researcher’s blog, as opposed to a government space center, is also alarming. In a statement to the Washington Post, Bill Gray says “when it comes to tracking stuff going around the moon, I have not heard of anyone else paying attention to it.”