Chinese weapon? Alien invasion? Space junk?
A “mystery rocket body” that collided with the moon’s surface earlier this year has been discovered by NASA, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.
The impact of the collision created a relatively large “double crater,” which means it wasn’t an average rocket.
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter — an eye-in-the-sky orbiting the moon — discovered the site of the mystery rocket, which crashed into the far side of the moon on March 4, the space agency reported on Friday.
LiveScience said the debris was traveling at approximately 5,770 miles per hour when it hit the lunar surface.
It was the dual craters that added an extra layer of strangeness to the enigma.
“Surprisingly the crater is actually two craters, an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards,” NASA reported. “The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. …
“No other rocket body impacts on the Moon created double craters.”
After a rocket body impacted the Moon last year, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to snap a surprising view of the impact site. Unexpectedly, the crater is actually two craters and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end: https://t.co/WtMAFrNkUw pic.twitter.com/hcoYPxlm8z
— NASA 360 (@NASA360) June 27, 2022
Gray initially thought it was the second stage of a Falcon X rocket launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2015.
Later, however, he told Live Science that the object was likely the spent upper stage of China’s Chang’e 5-T1 rocket, launched in 2014.
Chinese officials claimed the rocket’s upper stage burned up in Earth’s atmosphere years ago.
Since no space-exploring nation has claimed responsibility for the mysterious projectile, NASA scientists are still hypothesizing about what could have created the two craters, according to LiveScience. In other words, it’s still a mystery.
One hypothesis suggests the craters were formed by a piece of debris that had two large masses at each end. This would be an unusual occurrence, NASA said.
According to 2016 data from Arizona State University, debris from a minimum of 47 NASA rocket bodies has created “spacecraft impacts” on the moon.
The four large craters attributed to the Apollo 13, 14, 15 and 17 missions “were somewhat irregular in outline” and were “substantially larger” than each of the double craters, NASA said. The maximum width of the new double crater, however, is near that of the Apollo craters.
How about that? A mysterious anomaly right in Earth’s backyard.
Though a logical explanation for the mysterious rocket body might be found in the not-too-distant future — it’s easy to speculate that it was a Chinese rocket because the Chinese deny it — it also can give one pause to consider the vastness of space and how little humans know about it.
Until NASA can figure out where the mystery rocket came from, it leaves the door open for speculation about intelligent alien life, nefarious Chinese attempts to dominate space and a variety of other scenarios. Just imagine.
At the end of the day, this might be a good thing. Imagination serves to remind us of God’s grandeur in a universe filled with mysteries. It can also serve up a generous helping of humility.
Friedrich Nietzsche — who was dead wrong about God — did manage to get a few things dead to rights along the way.
“Once upon a time,” Nietzsche wrote in an 1873 essay, “in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of ‘world history,’ but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die.”
“One might invent such a fable,” he continued, “and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature.
“There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life.”
He was right in that human intellect is not enough, but he failed to see that the mystery inherent in the universe leads us toward the creator God. Without that mystery, humans are reduced to Nietzsche’s “clever beasts.”
No matter what caused the double crater on the moon, the mystery inherent in creation will remain. As God will forever be beyond the grasp of the human intellect, so will God’s creation.
Awe of the universe should continue to spur scientists, artists and everyone else to further explore our solar system and beyond.
Absent that awe, we become clever beasts bent solely on dominating that which was given as a gift.
And that would be a tragedy in the making.
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