China to blame for rocket hitting Moon and NOT Elon Musk as astronomers admit mistake

A SCHOOLBUS-SIZED piece of debris due to hit the Moon within weeks is not a SpaceX rocket after all.

According to astronomers, the rogue hunk of metal is in fact a Chinese rocket booster launched in 2014.

Last month, space trackers calculated that a piece of manmade debris was on course to hit the Moon at 2.6 km per second.

The impact will occur on March 4, 2022, according to Bill Gray, who writes the popular Project Pluto software to track near-Earth objects.

He reported that the junk was a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage 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.

In a blog post on Saturday, Gray retracted his claim that the rocket part belonged to SpaceX.

The astronomer explained that Jon Giorgini of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had asked him in an email earlier that day to look at the trajectory again.

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The trajectory of the Faclon 9 booster didn't go "particularly close to the moon," Gray wrote, which led him to a different explanation.

It appears that the hunk of junk doesn't belong to SpaceX, but to China.

"Back in 2015, I (mis)identified this object as 2015-007B, the second stage of the DSCOVR spacecraft," Gray wrote.

"We now have good evidence that it is actually 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 the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program that would eventually make it the third nation to touch down on the Moon after the US and Soviet Union.

Gray wrote that the mission's booster was first identified floating in space in March 2015 by the Catalina Sky Survey.

What is SpaceX?

Here’s what you need to know…

SpaceX is a cash-flushed rocket company that wants to take man to Mars.

It was set up by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk in 2002 and is based in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX's first aim was to build rockets that can autonomously land back on Earth for refurbishment and re-use.

The technology makes launching and operating space flights more efficient, and therefore cheaper.

SpaceX currently uses its reusable Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets to fly cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) for Nasa.

It also carries satellites and other space tech into orbit for various government agencies and multinational companies.

The company took astronauts to the ISS for the first time in 2020 and flew its first all-civilian crew there a year later.

Future missions will fly tourists and astronauts to the Moon and Mars.

Musk has repeatedly said he believes humanity must colonise Mars to save itself from extinction.

He plans to get a SpaceX rocket to the Red Planet by 2027.

It soared past the Moon two days after the SpaceX DISCOVR launch, leading to its misidentification as the mission's jettisoned upper stage.

The rocket part is still expected to hit the Moon on March 4, where it will leave a crater about 65 feet in diameter on the surface.

Unfortunately, it won't be possible to see the impact live as the tumbling rocket part is expected to hit the Moon's far side – the part that faces away from Earth.

Instead, astronomers will rely on images snapped by satellites including Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to view the aftermath of the crash.

By analysing the resulting crater, scientists hope to observe subsurface material ejected by the impact to shed light on the Moon's composition.

As part of its LCROSS mission, in 2009 Nasa deliberately smashed a rocket booster into the Moon in hopes of learning something from the debris it left behind.

"In essence, this is a 'free' LCROSS… except we probably won't see the impact," Gray wrote in January.

SpaceX's 2015 mission, dubbed DSCOVR, was its first to leave Earth's orbit, meaning the rocket's second stage couldn't be directed into the atmosphere.

That tactic is regularly used by the company and Western space agencies to reduce debris by ensuring that it burns up as opposed to remaining in orbit.

In other news, Boeing has sunk $450million into a flying taxi startup that hopes to whisk passengers across cities by the end of the decade.

Personalised smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users, may finally become available to U.S. consumers this year.

And, scientists are embarking on a mission to unravel the mystery behind dozens of grisly child mummies buried in an underground tomb in Sicily.

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