back to article Whatever hit the Moon in March, it left this weird double crater

When space junk crashed into the Moon earlier this year, it made not one but two craters on the lunar surface, judging from images revealed by NASA on Friday. Astronomers predicted a mysterious object would hit the Moon on March 4 after tracking the debris for months. The object was large, and believed to be a spent rocket …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could be that both the Chinese rocket, and the super-secret NSA satellite that it secretly snagged impacted. We'll never know...

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Watch and see who launches the salvage mission

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        The only salvage mission would be to sample to dust cloud after impact and analyse for trace metals.

        1. NoneSuch Silver badge

          I'm Imagining...

          A very confused Jedediah Kerman standing on the lunar surface.

      2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        The Vulture

        Is Harry Broderick & Jettison Scrap and Salvage Co. still around?

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Bouncy space junk?

    "the crater is actually two craters, an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards)," said NASA

    Maybe it hit, rebounded and hit again.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Bouncy space junk?

      In that case there would likely be one crater and something lying to it.

      I doubt very much that the rebound energy would be sufficient to create a second crater.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Bouncy space junk?

      There would be pretty much nothing left but melting dust to rebound! The moon's escape velocity is over 2km/s. The kinetic energy available at impact is more than enough to completely vaporise anything that smashes into the moon though some it lost into digging the crater but you can see the flashes from meteor impacts on the earth facing side of the moon from time to time. Earth's atmosphere slows things down so small meteors or larger grazing ones sometimes survive.

      More fun asto stuff - 12 instrument modes sorted - 5 to go

    3. Atomic Duetto

      Re: Bouncy space junk?

      So….. 128 Linguine, or thereabouts .. where are the other 5 bits

      It’s hard enough to comprehend the implied relativistic anomaly of a single Alibaba delivery creating two (count them) craters when you quote ridiculous units of measurement.. I mean, FFS!

      (Barbarella, Duran Duran .. I’m here all week, try the veal)

    4. Timbo

      Re: Bouncy space junk?

      In the article it is said that the rogue rocket was moving "end over end" it is quite possible that this was still happening as it hit the Moon (which has no atmosphere to slow down any such movements).

      So, the double crater could just be from one end hitting the surface first and millisconds later the other end also landed, creating the second crater.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Bouncy space junk?

        > one end hitting the surface first and millisconds later the other end also landed

        That only works if the rocket was boomerang-shaped to start with: There is no way a straight object can land (both) ends first, and rockets tend to be straight cylinders.

        The only valid explanation is that two heavy objects struck (not necessarily at the same time) ground. Which, as the article said, would tend to rule out a rocket stage, which is one heavy engine on one end and a flimsy empty sheet metal structure for all the rest.

        All we apparently know is that China dunnit, but what exactly remains to be determined...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Bouncy space junk?

        Are there still operational seismometers on the moon, that might have recorded a double impact?

      3. Stoneshop
        Thumb Up

        Re: Bouncy space junk?

        So, the double crater could just be from one end hitting the surface first and millisconds later the other end also landed, creating the second crater.

        Likely the lighter top end hitting first with still the full mass of the rocket stage behind the impact creating the first crater. Then the body collapsing or breaking and the heavier motor end hitting the surface a short distance away creating the second.

        Or it's from some transdimensional being getting bored watching a game of Brockian Ultra-Cricket and flicking peanuts into wormholes.

        1. FIA Silver badge

          Re: Bouncy space junk?

          How frequent are the observations? Could it just be that by chance there was another impact close by at a similar time?

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bouncy space junk?

            This is interesting possibility. I tried to find estimates of impact rate but could not find anything simple. Good place to start seems to be NASA Lunar Impact Monitoring Program and then perhaps NELIOTA Project: first seems not to have publications yet but second does (but I did not read it).

            My uninformed guess then is that impact rate is so low that chance of two unrelated impacts in 82 day period (between Feb 28 2022, May 21 2022) causing overlapping crater is within epsilon of zero.

            1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

              Re: Bouncy space junk?

              As we all know, a million-to-one chance succeeds nine times out of ten. How does that translate to epsilon-to-zero chances?

              1. Someone Else Silver badge

                Re: Bouncy space junk?

                And don't forget about the 50-50-90 rule: If there is a 50/50 chance of choosing a desirable outcome vs. an undesirable outcome, you'll choose the undesirable outcome 90% of the time.

                Not sure it applies here, but we're talking probability, so...

          2. bombastic bob Silver badge

            Re: Bouncy space junk?

            maybe the thing was damaged or unusually weak in the middle and broke apart on impact

            1. Swarthy
              Paris Hilton

              Re: Bouncy space junk?

              Or maybe the fuel tank was less empty than expected? The rocket engines made one crater, the tanks fell over, mixed the fuel & oxidizer, and -boom- second crater.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Bouncy space junk?

                "the tanks fell over, mixed the fuel & oxidizer, and -boom- second crater."

                yeah, but wouldn't we be able to see the tire tracks from the firetrucks?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bouncy space junk?

        sorry, no. That sort of thig could only happen in the kind of low-velocity impact we#re familar with in everyday life, but the imct velocity involved would have turned any single object into a combination of hot metal mist and small chunks of debris on initial impact. It will definitely have been two massy objects t have formed two craters.

    5. Potty Professor

      Re: Bouncy space junk?

      Maybe it was two distinct objects, or one object that had broken up and the two halves separated during descent. The fact that the two craters overlap would indicate that the two objects were flying in fairly close formation, one slightly ahead of the other. If, as surmised, they were the parts of a booster launched in 2014, they would have separated fairly significantly in the intervening 8 odd years, due to perturbations from local gravitational variations, or even minor collisions along the way.

    6. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Bouncy space junk?

      More likely scenario than bouncing, would be it hit engine end first, at an angle sufficient for the engine to sheer off and create crater 1. Rest of the rocket continues on to crash and create crater 2.

  3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    hit empty end first causing first crater then the engines hit causing the second

    At least thats what happens in Kerbal Space Program (assuming you can get your rocket to the mun in the first place)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Possibly

      This was my thought (minus the Kerbal verification.

      We know it was tumbling and hit almost vertically. If the fuel tank hit first and the shock knocked the engines loose this could explain the two craters.

      I'm always pleased when a video game agrees with me.

      1. Mark 85

        Re: Possibly

        Sounds reasonable to me. But I'll toss this in.. were the fuel tanks completely empty? If not, perhaps there was a fuel explosion?

        As always any answer begats two more questions.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Possibly

          "If not, perhaps there was a fuel explosion?"

          Highly unlikely. Even if the fuel is RP-1, the oxidizer would have been cryogenic for a first stage booster and, unless it got to the moon very quickly, would have boiled off. There wouldn't be anything left to go boom. Hypergolic fuels may last long enough. I've never worked on a mission involving storable propellants of a long duration (over a couple of days). Thermal management in space is a PIA.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Possibly

      Couple of options-

      1) Future investigations reveal objects of unknown construction at the bottom of each crater. Deeper study uncovers a 'black box'. After much computation, a translation is produced. The last recording said-

      "We're breaking up.. We're going in" followed by brief sounds of collision. More worringly, the recording revealed an encoded overlay in a seperate language stating that "All your base are belong to us!

      As the study also uncovers evidence that the wrecked ship contained materials likely to be used to establish an outpost, this will be troubling. The recorder evidence plus outpost/base kit may indicate colonisation attempts by two parties in conflict.

      2) The Clangers have discovered YouTube and Tannerite. They then discovered that the distance between their target and their magazine was too small for the excessively large charge they were shooting at. This suggests an intelligence level equivalent of humans, as both species frequently fail to consider the physics and safety implications of shooting large charges in exchange for views, and shrapnel.

  4. werdsmith Silver badge

    This should tell us about the angle of impact, as high energy craters tend to be round even when the impact is at very oblique angles. An object with a mass at each end, or a rocket booster engine instantaneously separated from its tank section. 16 metres base, simple geometry am very amused and nostalgic how the articles gives us the dimensions in yards.

    Anyone here go access to iSALE and a spare week to set up a sim?

    1. Bill Gray

      High angle of impact

      Good thought. I think some of the 'twin craters' on the moon are theorized to have been caused by shallow-angle impacts. But this object came in at about 15 degrees from vertical (quite well-determined from our knowledge of its trajectory). So, not at all a shallow impact.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: High angle of impact

        Are you Bill of the Planetary Society ?

        1. Bill Gray

          Re: High angle of impact

          I'm the Bill Gray mentioned in the article. But my only connection to the Planetary Society is that I wrote a couple of articles for them, quite a while back. (One of which, coincidentally, was about Chang'e 2 and its flyby of the asteroid Toutatis, which involved similar sleuthing to figure out what China was up to. This would all be much simpler if the China National Space Agency would just tell us what they were doing, the way ESA and NASA almost always do. But I'll admit that it's more fun when CSNA leaves us little puzzles like this to figure out.)

          1. Sam not the Viking

            Re: High angle of impact

            Fascinating reference. You deserve this ---->

            It's articles like these that make me wish I was like a Wallace although a Clanger would be more accurate.

          2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

            Re: High angle of impact

            Do we know that the entire payload was only a single satellite which was successfully deployed?

            If there was a second satellite which failed to deploy would that leave the craft with a large enough "dumbell" weight distribution? How the mechanics of such a situation would stack up depends on lots of impact unknowns but ...

          3. Danny 2

            Re: High angle of impact

            "Bill Gray, a developer building software for professional astronomers, who first predicted the impact"

            Bill, experts like you are meant to stay above the line. We don't like people who know what they are talking about below the line, it just makes the rest of us look bad.

            The prevailing theory below the line so far is the crater was created by Clangers, but like you I disagree. Personally I suspect the Soup Dragon, but I'm willing to call the Astronomer Hotline.

  5. gerryg

    Chinese Junk on moon

    Was I the only one to wonder how they got one of those little boats there in the first place?

    Possibly the Sunday Sport was on to something when it reported that a WW2 bomber and London bus were found there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chinese Junk on moon

      Quite probably the prototype of the 'Junk' that Deckard got his lunch from !!!

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: Chinese Junk on moon

        Deckard? Korben Dallas!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Chinese Junk on moon

      "suspected Chinese junk" .. maybe you-know-who is setting up a new distribution center - they'll definitely need robots to run that one!

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Chinese Junk on moon

      They're not always small. Admiral Zhjeng He's fleet being a case in point... (and it would explain what happened to those ships)

  6. Chris Gray 1
    Black Helicopters

    pointy wedge

    Am I the only one who noticed a pointy wedge in the right-hand crater? The tip is pointing about 1-o'clock.

    Since we haven't even seen BumbleBee yet, let alone Optimus Prime, I conclude we're all doomed!

  7. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Hot and fast

    One crater from impact, the other crater from the projectile spontaneously boiling off into space.

  8. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    My Theory FWIW...

    It landed jolly near a Clanger's home and the other "crater" is the aforementioned Clanger moving the lid which it hides behind to see what the commotion is all about.

    1. Archivist

      Re: My Theory FWIW...

      +1 for a Clangers mention.

  9. Binraider Silver badge

    I'm not saying it was the moon nazis, but...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Explanation is simple ... as anyone from my generation knows two circles side-by-side indicates the presence of Mysterons!

  11. Tron Silver badge

    A cunning plan.

    El Reg readers could crowdfund an unpersoned moonshot - Red Dwarf - to find out exactly what it is, check for clangers and WWII bombers and bring back enough moondust to turn a profit. We have a name for our ship and an excellent theme tune. The rest should be easy.

    Then we send Red Dwarf II to Mars.

  12. the Jim bloke

    The problem with getting a chinese crater, is half a second later, you want another one...

  13. wolfetone Silver badge

    I mean, we're definitely sure it created two craters? It's not just fell and created a crater next to an already existing crater?

    We've definitely checked this, haven't we?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Yes. Were no craters 28 Feb, were two 21 May

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Then I guess the only reasonable explanation to this - that isn't space nazis - is...


  14. Roger Kynaston Silver badge

    Everyone is wrong!

    It is two videos that Wowbagger threw from his ship because he had already seen them 2 million times when he came to earth to insult Arthur Dent but realised he had already done him.

  15. The Sprocket

    Does it really matter?

    One odd impact crater caused by Chinese space junk. For decades humanity has been trashing up space and there are increasing amounts of junk in orbit. The moon already has a notable amount of left junk, and Mars is now being trashed up as well. And NOBODY seems to care. Just like here on Earth. Nobody really cares unless there is negative political impact, or a nasty financial one. And those who do believe we should be picking up after ourselves are just viewed as 'enviro-lefty-kooks'.

    So I see one double impact crater. Does it really matter? Nobody apparently gives a toss.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does it really matter?

      We should clear up the junk in space for sure...let's get a group together with litter pickers and black bags and get out there ASAP.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After the pizzazzy double rainbows our curiousities are piqued by the more dull and certainly less evident double craters.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jesus Christ

    Whatever left that double crater must have had an arse the size of a milk round.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First Delivery...

    ...of Chinese tat to the moon.

    It arrived late and in amazingly fucked condition...Ali Express called it a success and are now shipping to the moon.

    In other news, the renowned cardboard packaging crash test lab, Hermes, have shown great interest in the process and are planning an astronaut delivery person training programme which involves kicking other peoples packages up and down an empty space in Zero G. Packages will be selected at random and the astronauts will mostly be mums who can deliver to the moon during a school run in a specially modified Ford Galaxy people carrier complete with the Deluxe package of 4 scuffed alloy rims, a cracked rear bumper and at least one door a different colour to the rest of the craft. The rear passenger foot wells will be filled with a regulation amount of biscuit crumbs, crisps and McDonalds chips.

  19. Blackjack Silver badge

    Could be the balls of certain male anatomy shaped rocket...

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