A rogue Rocket expected to collide with the moon on March 4 was wrongly identified as a SpaceX Falcon Rocket stage and, instead, is likely from a past Chinese lunar mission. The object now on target to hit the moon was first made public by Bill Gray, an independent researcher focused on orbital dynamics and the developer of astronomical software.
He identified it in 2015 as the second stage of a SpaceX Falcon Rocket, used that same year to launch the US Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR. The object, initially called WE0913A by asteroid spotters, had gone past the moon two days after DSCOVR’s launch.Over the weekend, however, Gray said he had gotten the object’s origins wrong after communicating with Jon Giorgini of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which doesn’t track space junk but does keep careful track of a lot of active spacecraft, including DSCOVR.
Gray said he subsequently reviewed his data and has now landed on a different explanation: He said that the object was the third stage of the Chinese Long March 3C Rocket used to launch its lunar orbiter in 2014. The stage is expected to hit the moon at 7:26 a.m. ET on March 4. However, the impact will be on the far side of the moon and not visible from Earth. The Rocket will likely disintegrate on impact and create a crater about 10 to 20 meters across.