A MISSILE on course to hit the moon today could actually belong to China.
The school bus-sized chunk of space junk is due to collide with our rocky satellite at around 12:30pm UK time, and its origin is hotly debated.
It was spotted falling through in January by astronomers and was initially mistaken for SpaceX.
But, closer investigation revealed that the spent booster is likely part of a rocket that carried a small Chinese spacecraft called Chang’e 5-T1 to the moon in 2014.
Several astronomers who have tracked the object support the theory, although Beijing has denied the allegations.
Now the space expert who first identified the discarded rocket part claims to have settled the debate once and for all.
Speak with live science Yesterday US astronomer Bill Gray said he was convinced the ‘moon buster’ was China’s rocket.
“I’m pretty sure there’s no way it could be anything else,” said Gray, who developed the asteroid-tracking software Project Pluto.
“At this point, we rarely get anything this secure.”
On Jan. 21, Gray first reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage that was launched from Florida in February 2015.
It was on a mission to deploy an Earth observation satellite called DSCOVR for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
However, after receiving a tip from a Nasa scientist, he later retracted his claim, saying the rocket part most likely belonged to China.
“In 2015, I (mis)identified this object as 2015-007B, the second stage of the DSCOVR spacecraft,” Gray wrote last month.
“We now have good evidence that this is indeed 2014-065B, the booster for the Chang’e 5-T1 lunar mission.”
Chang’e 5-T1 was an experimental spacecraft that lifted off in October 2014 in preparation for the Chang’e 5 lunar mission.
The mission was part of China’s Lunar Exploration Program, which would eventually make it the third nation to land on the moon, after the United States and the Soviet Union.
But China had none of it, claiming a few days later that the mission’s upper stage had burned up safely in Earth’s atmosphere.
“According to Chinese monitoring, the upper stage of the Chang’e-5 mission rocket safely fell through Earth’s atmosphere and was completely burned up,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.
However, experts noted that China pointed to the 2020 Chang’e-5 mission, rather than the Chang’e 5-T1 mission of the same name, as the focus of the allegations. Both are completely different.
On March 1, Gray’s theory was confirmed by the US Space Command, which tracks near-Earth objects, after its astronomers confirmed that the upper stage of the Chang’e 5-T1 mission never came out of orbit.
“It’s in the orbit that a lot of lunar missions occupy; its tilt means it has flown over China in the past; it flew east, as Chinese lunar missions do; and its estimated launch time is within 20 minutes of the Chang’e 5-T1 rocket,” Gray told Live Science.
The moon’s impact is expected to create a debris cloud and leave a small crater in its wake, although no serious damage will occur.
It will be the first time an artificial object has crashed into another space body without being aimed at it.
The collision will occur on the far side of the moon as the one-ton piece of space junk is traveling at about 1.6 miles per second.
Once the dust settles, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will position itself to take pictures of what was left behind.
These images could prove crucial for scientists hoping to gain a better understanding of space collisions.
They could also help pinpoint the rocket’s origins once and for all by examining the man-made debris.
In other news, the mystery surrounding Stonehenge’s construction by prehistoric Britons has finally been solved after research confirmed the monument as a Old solar calendar.
In other news, the iPhone’s virtual assistant, Siri, is getting a new, “gender neutral” voice.
A British woman has told of their horror after scammers used photos of a ‘silver fox’ politician to swindle her out of £80,000.
And the Norfolk County Council sues Apple about what it says was misleading information about iPhone sales.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science Team? Email us at email@example.com
https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8454664/doomed-rocket-crash-moon-is-from-china-astronomers/ The doomed rocket that will crash on the moon today eventually came from China, astronomers warn