Towards the end of last year, astronomers spotted a rocket that was on a collision course with the Moon. The impact finally occurred on March 4, 2022 and was imaged by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). The LRO was launched on June 18, 2009 and is operated by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
A team of scientists carefully inspected the images of the impact crater created by this rocket’s collision with the Moon. Surprisingly, the crater is actually two craters. There is an eastern crater, which is approximately 18-meters in diameter, and it is superimposed on a western crater, which is approximately 16-meters in diameter. The crater was located near the Hertzsprung impact basin, and is approximately 28-meters wide in the longest dimension.
This double crater that resulted from the collision was extremely unexpected. No previous rocket body impacts on the Moon have created double craters before. The other craters on the Moon that have been created by rocky body impacts are also much more irregular in shape and larger than this new feature, which leaves scientists scratching their heads.
The origin of this rocket is still unknown, but the double nature of the impact feature it created could help point scientists in the right direction. Usually, most of the mass of a rocket is concentrated on one end, the end with the motor. The rest of the rocket is made up of the fuel tank, which would be empty at the time of impact. A possible explanation for the double cratered impact would be that the rocket body had significant mass at both ends.