Mystery rocket leaves 2 new craters on moon, NASA says

Rocket of uncertain origin struck moon March 4

NASA on June 23 released new photos of a rocket impact site on Earth's moon taken by the agency's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

GREENBELT, Md. – A mystery rocket first spotted in space by astronomers last year has crashed into the moon, leaving an impact site with two new craters on the lunar surface, according to NASA.

Photos taken by the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) — which launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in 2009 and is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland — show the “double crater” as it appeared March 4, spanning roughly 28 meters at its longest.

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It’s not known when the rocket launched or where it came from, and no other rocket impacts on the moon have ever left a double crater to NASA’s knowledge, the agency said.

NASA compared the craters to those left by the third stage of four Saturn V rockets, and though all were considered irregular in shape, the Apollo craters were consistently, substantially larger.

A rocket body impacted the Moon on March 4, 2022, near Hertzsprung crater, creating a double crater roughly 28 meters wide in the longest dimension. (LROC NAC M1407760984R; image enlarged 3x) (NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

The images were first shared June 23 by the LRO Camera team, showing the fresh scars in the lunar highlands, some the newest for the moon after billions of years of taking punches on its gray chin.

Full resolution (100 cm pixels) image centered on the new rocket body impact double crater. (NAC M1407760984R, image width 1,100 meters.) (NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

Though the origin of the rocket body is undetermined, NASA said the astronomers who discovered it predicted the time of the strike and the location of the impact within 100 kilometers.

The agency did not expect it to leave two craters though, explaining that a spent rocket normally has more mass toward its motor end once its fuel tank is empty. However, the strange shape may be the key to indicating where the rocket came from, NASA said.

Learn more about the LRO by clicking here.

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Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.