If you’re one of those people who believes there’s a secret base occupied by humans on the dark side of the Moon, you might want to send them a message that a rocket will crash there in a few weeks … and make sure they know it was sent by Elon Musk’s SpaceX so they don’t retaliate against the wrong people. It’s true … and, while it may be a danger to anyone or anything in its path and an embarrassment to SpaceX employees (except for the shameless Musk), some scientists see it as an opportunity to watch firsthand how craters form on the lunar surface.
“SpaceX launched its first interplanetary mission nearly seven years ago. After the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage completed a long burn to reach a transfer orbit, NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory began its journey to a Sun-Earth LaGrange point more than 1 million km from the Earth. By that point, the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage was high enough that it did not have enough fuel to return to Earth's atmosphere. It also lacked the energy to escape the gravity of the Earth-Moon system, so it has been following a somewhat chaotic orbit since February 2015.”
According to Eric Berger, senior space editor at Ars Technica, that chaotic orbit will end on March 4, 2022, when the rocket stage smashes into the Moon on its far side near the equator. (An inside tip if you’re betting in the SpaceX lunar rocket crash pool.) He gets his information from Bill Gray at the Project Pluto website which tracks near-Earth objects, asteroids, minor planets, comets and large pieces of space junk. Gray is trying to organize amateur and professional astronomers to use his coordinates (“2022 March 4 12:25:58 Universal Time, at latitude +5.18, east longitude 233.55, plus or minus a few seconds and a few kilometers”) to record the impact for posterity and science. (Not to mention possible lawsuits against Elon Musk.) Unfortunately for astronomers and bettors, the rocket stage is tumbling erratically so Gray’s coordinates aren’t exact.
For those interested, either on Earth or the far side of the Moon, the SpaceX rocket weighs about four metric tons and will be hitting the Moon at about 1.6 miles per second (2.58 km/s or 5760 miles per hour). It’s not the first time for such an artificial impact -- NASA sent the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite in 2009 which hit the Moon in two locations and the craters were analyzed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Neither the LRO nor India’s Chandrayaan-2 will be in the right position to watch the SpaceX crash live, but they will see the crater later.
What about the occupants of the far side bases? China’s lunar rover recently inspected what looked like a hut or a small base, but it turned out to be a rock. Conspiracy theorists have long theorized that Adolf Hitler’s Nazis set up a base colony on the far side as early as 1942, while the other side’s (the Allies) conspiracy theorists say the U.S. has one there. And there are plenty of people perusing Google Moon with digital magnifiers and finding things they swear are alien lunar bases hiding from Earth. Shouldn’t we, out of courtesy, let any or all of them know?
How about everyone facing the Moon on March 4 and yelling “Look out!!!"?