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Researchers confirm it was a Chinese rocket stage that impacted Moon in 2022

Impact, before and after
The crash site is the double crater in the
lower image.

Researchers have now confirmed that the unknown rocket stage that impacted the Moon in 2022 was from a Chinese rocket, a Long March 3B that launched China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission in November 2020.

“In this paper, we present a trajectory and spectroscopic analysis using ground-based telescope observations to show conclusively that WE0913A is the Long March 3C rocket body (R/B) from the Chang’e 5-T1 mission,” the researchers, led by Tanner Campbell, a doctoral student in the UA’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, wrote in a study that came out Thursday (Nov. 16) in the Planetary Science Journal. These two lines of evidence — how the object was moving and what it was made of — leave little doubt about WE0913A’s provenance, Campbell and his colleagues report.

The data, combined with the unusual double crater caused by the impact, also suggests that this stage had additional unknown equipment at its top, matching the mass of its engines at the bottom. Since the Chinese continue to deny it was their stage and have said nothing about it, we have no idea what that extra equipment might have been.

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  • Allan

    As it tumbled if the light end hit first it would have the full weight of the booster behind so it caused a crater. Then the heavy end toppled over at less velocity and left the 2nd crater. No extra payload.

  • Col Beausabre

    News item – “Not content with bombarding their own people with spent rockets….”

  • Dick Eagleson


    Unfortunately, cartoon physics don’t apply in the real world. The rocket stage would have been moving at miles per second upon impact. The whole event would have taken only a millisecond or so for all toward-the-surface motion to cease and the energy turned into boost for the tons of ejecta created. There would have been nothing standing to slowly tip over when the entire impacting mass was vaporized almost instantly.

  • Allan

    Very funny, Dick. See how Bugs Bunny and the road runner has affected me? “Toppled over” elicits an incorrect visualization. The rocket would be crushed into particles no matter what angle it hit at, all parts hitting at about the same velocity. However, I am still trying to rationilize my conclusion in fast motion.

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