Nobody Can Really Tell If Space Junk that Hit the Moon Belonged to China or Elon Musk

Our moon has just become the graveyard of a piece of space junk that no one wants to take responsibility for.

The three-ton hunk of junk is part of a rocket that was sent into space several years ago and was first spotted in March of 2015 by Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), a project based in Arizona that is funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At that time, CSS and other astronomers like Bill Gray thought that the junk was a near-Earth asteroid which they temporarily named “WE0913A.”

Photo: PxHere

However, a Brazilian astronomer named Cristovao Jacques observed that “WE0913A” had a geocentric orbit, which indicated that it must be a satellite or space junk.

Space Junk that Hit the Moon Probably Belonged to China

Peter Birtwhistle, who manages the Great Shefford Observatory in England, was among the people who had seen WE0913A in orbit in 2015. But seven years passed before he saw it again, prompting him to take photos and send them to Bill Gray, who is a renowned astronomer and data scientist in the US.

Photo: PxHere

At first, Gray assumed that the space junk was part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched DSCOVR in 2015. But an email from Jon Giorgini of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory clarified that DSCOVR’s 2015 trajectory was not even close to the moon, where “WE0913A” was first spotted. DSCOVR was in another distant part of space; it was impossible that the second stage of the SpaceX rocket that launched it was seen passing by the moon.

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Gray reviewed his records on “WE0913A” and noticed the space junk’s odd orbit. He looked into space missions that must have been launched before March 2015 that went past the moon. He discovered China’s Chang’e 5-T1 mission that was launched in October 2014.

Space Junk Hits the Moon, But China Denies the Rocket Debris Is Theirs

Finally, the controversial space junk hit the moon, creating a small crater on the natural satellite – no real damage done. There have been other human-made objects that have impacted the moon since the 1950s, including Apollo 11’s seismic experiment, NASA’s LCROSS mission, and the SMART-1 spacecraft of the European Space Agency. The moon doesn’t seem to mind.

Photo: YouTube/NewsNation

But China refuses to acknowledge that the junk came from one of their space missions. “According to China’s monitoring, the upper stage of the Chang’e-5 mission rocket has fallen through the Earth’s atmosphere in a safe manner and burnt up completely,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But it appeared that Wang may have confused two of China’s pertinent space missions. Chang’e-5 was a totally different mission that launched in 2020, while the Chang’e 5-T1 mission happened in 2014.

Now, both Gray and Birtwhistle strongly believe that the space junk “WE0913A” was actually China’s rocket booster “2014-065B” which disintegrated upon impact on the moon. And so all evidence that can prove the claim is now already gone.

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