GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

A chunk of a SpaceX rocket that blasted off seven years ago and was abandoned in space after completing its mission will crash into the Moon in March. The rocket was deployed in 2015 to put into orbit a NASA satellite called the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). Since then, the second stage of the rocket, or booster, has been floating in what mathematicians call a chaotic orbit, astronomer Bill Gray said.

What

  1. It was Gray who calculated the space junk's new collision course with the Moon.
  2. The booster passed quite close to the Moon in January in a rendezvous that altered its orbit.
  3. He is behind Project Pluto, software that allows for calculating the trajectory of asteroids and other objects in space and is used in NASA-financed space observation programs.
  4. A week after the rocket stage whizzed close to the Moon, Gray observed it again and concluded it would crash into the Moon's dark side on 4 March at more than 5,500 miles per hour (9,000 kilometers per hour).
  5. There're at least 50 objects that were left in deep Earth orbit in the '60s, '70s and '80s that were just abandoned there.
  6. The impact of the SpaceX rocket chunk weighing four tons on the Moon will not be visible from Earth in real time.
  7. But it will leave a crater that scientists will be able to observe with spacecraft and satellites like NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter or India's Chandrayaan-2, and thus learn more about the geology of the Moon.
  8. Spacecraft have been intentionally crashed into the Moon before for scientific purposes, such as during the Apollo missions to test seismometers.

Flashback

  1. In 2009, NASA sent a rocket stage hurling into the Moon near its south pole to look for water.
  2. But most rockets do not go so far from Earth. SpaceX brings its rocket boosters back through the Earth's atmosphere so they disintegrate over the ocean. The first stage is recovered and reused.
  3. Elon Musk's company is currently developing a lunar lander that should allow NASA to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2025 at the earliest.