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UA team spots Chinese rocket booster, raises questions

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Friday, November 24, 2023 - 5:05am
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In March 2022, a rocket booster slammed into the far side of the moon, creating two craters 100 feet apart.

Research by a University of Arizona team published in the Planetary Science Journal finds the object came from a Chinese rocket that likely carried an additional undisclosed payload.

The object was spotted seven years ago by the Catalina Sky Survey, which tracks potentially hazardous asteroids, and thought to come from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

But spectral analysis and orbital path data indicated it was a booster from a Chinese Long March 3C rocket that carried a test vehicle for China’s 2020 lunar sample return mission, Chang'e 5.

Though China claimed the booster burned up in Earth's atmosphere, U.S. Space Command confirmed reentry never occurred.

The rocket’s stable tumble through space and its double craters suggests it carried an unknown additional payload massive enough to counterbalance its two 1,200-pound engines.