Reports of a rocket booster from the SpaceX Falcon 9 on course to hit the moon are true, but it’s not anything to be worried about, experts say.
The booster was originally launched from Florida in Feb. 2015 as part of a mission that sent a space weather satellite on a million-mile journey, according to the Guardian.
Seven years later, a portion of the rocket referred to as the “second stage left” is expected to make contact with the moon sometime around March 4.
According to ARS Technica, the rocket’s second stage didn’t have enough fuel to return to the Earth’s atmosphere and was unable to escape the gravity of the Earth-Moon system, which has put it in “a somewhat chaotic orbit since February 2015.”
Center for Astrophysics astronomer Jonathan McDowell confirmed that the second stage left is expected to hit the moon on March 4 and tweeted “it’s interesting, but not a big deal.”
For those asking: yes, an old Falcon 9 second stage left in high orbit in 2015 is going to hit the moon on March 4. It's interesting, but not a big deal.— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) January 25, 2022
NASA reports that more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris, or “space junk,” are tracked by the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network sensors at any given time, however, much more debris that is too small to track exists in the near-Earth space environment.
While those smaller pieces may be too small to track, they’re still large enough to threaten human spaceflight and robotic missions.
Bill Gray, who created Guide astrometry software that tracks Near-Earth Objects, asteroids, minor planets and comets, wrote a blog post on Friday saying the impact could be good for science.
“I am rooting for a lunar impact. We already know what happens when junk hits the earth,” said Gray. “In 2009, a rocket booster was deliberately impacted into the moon in hopes of learning something from the ejecta.”
Gray said from a safety viewpoint — the short version is that people should not be worried at all.