China's approach to completing its space missions has always been covert or enigmatic. In a recent mission, China sent a suspicious payload to the moon, not disclosing what it did and what was its purpose. On March 4, 2022, a rocket body slammed into the moon's far side, blasting out a weird double crater about 95 feet (29 meters) wide. The crash did not come as a surprise; astronomers had been tracking the rogue rocket for weeks and predicted, with impressive accuracy, where and when it would slam into the lunar surface.
After additional examination, it was discovered that the crash's primary cause was a booster China had launched in 2014 as part of its lunar exploration programme, contrary to what was first thought to be a discarded SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from 2015.
The unusual form of the crash sparked questions about the possibility of an unidentified object aboard as scientists investigated the incident, turning the lunar crash site into a scientific murder mystery.
Researchers from the University of Arizona, who had been tracking the object’s trajectory for seven years, detailed their findings in a recent paper published in The Planetary Science Journal. The team analyzed the rocket’s light reflection signature and its movement through space, leading them to propose that the booster carried a mystery payload that met its end on the lunar surface.
Lead author of the study and University of Arizona doctorate candidate Tanner Campbell said, "This is the first time we see a double crater." The scientists noticed that two equivalent masses that struck the Moon at different distances from one another had to have collided to form two craters of the same size.
The object, which was initially identified as WE0913A, was eventually determined to be from China's Long March 3C rocket, which was launched by the China National Space Administration, or CNSA. Initially, it was believed to be a Falcon 9 rocket booster. After launching the rocket into lunar orbit and fulfilling its mission, it was left in space for a future sample return mission test flight.
Researchers saw the booster's unusual behaviour—which included tumbling end over end steadily—with a powerful telescope. This behaviour suggested that there was another mass attached to the booster's front to act as a counterweight for the engines. The idea of a mystery payload was strengthened when the two impact craters on the Moon were later observed.
China, which is renowned for withholding information about its missions, has not revealed the nature of the unidentified object. The incident emphasizes the necessity for greater transparency in revealing the payloads carried by different space agencies and industry leaders as lunar research missions continue.
Image source: Firstpost
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. MyIndMakers is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of MyindMakers and it does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.