Anyone who makes a living by the sea knows how the moon is an integral part of weather and tide patterns.
So, what will happen when a 4-ton Falcon 9 rocket goes hurtling out of space and hits the moon at high speed?
The answer is probably nothing. Much heavier and bigger asteroids have been hitting the moon for years, that is why there are so many craters on the moon.
The moon is not going to go off course, or split in two, the earth isn’t going to get tsunamis.
Falcon 9 is a partially reusable two-stage-to-orbit medium-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX. It cost 90 million dollars to make. There is insufficient fuel to return it to earth.
An opportunity to learn about the presence of water
The impact of the unused Falcon 9 offers an opportunity for NASA and other space observers to learn about ‘the presence of ice at the lunar poles’ when subsurface material will be ejected by the impact from Falcon 9. This information has only been possible to observe in the past when in 2009 NASA deliberately impacted a spent rocket on the LCROSS mission into the Moon.
If scientists know exactly when and where the impact will happen it will allow satellites presently orbiting the Moon, including NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and India’s Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, to collect observations about the impact crater.
The Moon’s poles have permanently shadowed regions that never receive sunlight, where spacecraft have detected large amounts of water ice, if more is learned about the presence of ice at the lunar poles future astronauts could use the ice for air, water, and propellant.
Falcon 9 has been following a somewhat chaotic orbit since February 2015, space observers have been watching it with concern as it has a mass of over 4 tons. Bill Gray programmer for the widely used Project Pluto software that tracks near-Earth objects, asteroids, minor planets, and comets, put out a call for ‘amateur and professional astronomers to make additional observations of the stage, which appears to be tumbling through space.’ With new data gathered from observers Gray believes that Falcon 9’s is very likely to ‘impact the far side of the Moon, near the equator, on March 4.’
Eric Berger of arstechnica writes ‘Some uncertainties remain about the destination of where the rocket is likely to hit because it is tumbling, and sunlight can also have effect of “pushing” on the rocket making it slightly alter course.’ It is unlikely to hit earth. Gray believes “These unpredictable effects are very small,” they will accumulate between now and March 4 and scientist are hoping that they will be able to track the impact so they can gather very valuable data from the event.