In early 2022, a Chinese space debris fragment hit the Moon, creating a mysterious double crater. Recent research in the Planetary Science Journal by University of Arizona scientists confirms the debris came from a Chinese Long March 3C rocket booster, indicated by distinctive twin craters.

The narrative began in 2015 when astronomers detected approaching space debris heading for the Moon, initially thought to be a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster. Investigations later revealed it was the launcher for China’s Chang’e lunar rover mission.

Despite China’s denial, the US Space Command countered, stating the probe’s spent upper stage hadn’t re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, suggesting it was near the Moon.

The study not only establishes confidence in the debris’s origin but suggests a second undisclosed payload based on the double crater.

The identity of this object remains speculative. Observations of the Chinese rocket’s behavior indicate it carried something substantial, causing it to tumble in space before crash-landing.

Tanner Campbell, a University of Arizona aerospace doctoral student, noted, “Something in space this long is subjected to forces from Earth’s and Moon’s gravity and the Sun’s light. You’d expect it to wobble, but it was tumbling end-over-end in a stable way.”

The mystery deepens as the research team found a notable absence of an object with a suitable mass to counterbalance the booster’s weight and cause the observed tumbling.

“Obviously, we have no idea what it might have been — perhaps some extra support structure, or additional instrumentation, or something else,” Campbell said. “We probably won’t ever know.”

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