Snapshot: Rocket impact created double crater on the Moon

A pair of lunar craters recently excavated when a rocket slammed into the Moon may hint at the nature of the human-made impactor responsible.
By | Published: July 5, 2022
The eastern crater is about 60 feet (18 meters) across while the western crater is slightly smaller at 52 feet (16 m) in diameter.
NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Last year, astronomers discovered that a rogue rocket body was on a collision course with the Moon. The impact occurred March 4, 2022. Now, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the resulting crater — or rather craters.

The fact that the collision produced two craters is odd; no previously witnessed rocket-body impacts on the Moon have created such a double crater. This suggests something about the identity of the rocket that slammed into the lunar surface.

While the Apollo SIV-B craters are somewhat irregular and much larger, none of them produced a double crater.
NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

According to the NASA press release, in order to produce such a double crater, the rocket likely had to have a large mass on either end, a feature not usually seen in a spent rocket, whose mass is concentrated at the end where the engines reside. This suggests the impactor was either a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched in 2015 or a Chinese 5-1 booster launched in 2014.

However, the impactor’s true identity still remains unclear, and neither party has yet taken responsibility.