Welcome to the 2020s, where it’s another day, another doomsday headline.
Luckily for us, this next story probably sounds worse than it actually is — but it does sound bad. Reports say that a piece of a SpaceX rocket is on a collision course with the Moon.
While astronomers say this is set to be the first instance of space junk hitting the moon, it’s probably not something to worry about too much. In fact, one expert wrote in a blog post that he’s “rooting for” a lunar impact.
So here's what reportedly happened:
SpaceX is well-known for recycling its rocket boosters, but on a mission seven years ago, one booster spent too much fuel on a launch, rendering it incapable of being returned to earth for reuse. Instead, it’s been basically adrift in space ever since.
Recently, scientists discovered that the 3.6 ton chunk of space junk is heading straight toward the Moon. When similar scenarios happen near Earth, our planet’s atmosphere does the hard work of burning up most of the object, but since the Moon doesn’t have a similar atmosphere, the booster is expected to strike its surface.
Luckily, the result will be – in the words of one Harvard astronomer – “just another hole in the green cheese.” Turns out this booster crash will only be noteworthy because it was accidental. For years, researchers have deliberately created craters in the name of science, including the development of a lunar satellite that’s equipped with projectiles. Shooting a 40-foot rocket section at the lunar surface in 2009 even helped scientists confirm that there was water on the Moon.
Likewise, space enthusiasts seem to be hoping that the incidental impact of the SpaceX booster might yield some scientific evidence that can help solve more Moon mysteries.