Chang’e 5-T1 Booster Set to Crash Into the Moon in March


Dwayne Flight

A spacecraft launched in 2014 by China is on track to collide with the moon on March 4, originally thought to be a rogue SpaceX Falcon 9 booster. Project Pluto, an astronomical software created by Bill Gray, corrected its error after an email from Jon Giorgini at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said that it was not a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 booster belonged to the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). The DSCOVR was launched on February 11, 2015, at Cape Canaveral. According to, “Jon pointed out that JPL’s Horizons system showed that the DSCOVR spacecraft’s trajectory did not go particularly close to the moon. It would be a little strange if the second stage went right past the moon, while DSCOVR was in another part of the sky. There’s always some separation, but this was suspiciously large.”


Bill Gray says that the reason he thought it was the DSCOVR was that he didn’t have the trajectory, and he thought it was a lunar flyby (a way for spacecraft to adjust their orbits). He thinks it may be a Chang’e 5-T1 booster based on his observations and evidence from other people.


One of Gray’s pieces of evidence is a study on the composition of the object by a couple of students at the University of Arizona. “We took a spectrum (which can reveal the material makeup of an object) and compared it with Chinese and SpaceX rockets of similar types, and it matches the Chinese rocket”, UArizona associate professor Vishnu Reddy, who co-leads the Space Domain Awareness lab, told UArizona News.


China says that their rocket had safely entered the earth and that the object identified by the space community was not the Chang’e 5-T1 booster from Beijing’s lunar exploration program. According to an article published by FirstPost, “… China’s foreign ministry rejected the claim Monday, saying the booster in question had ́safely entered the Earth’s atmosphere and was completely incinerated́.”


Gray also discusses the importance of an official agency tracking space junk since it is becoming more of a problem when more and more spacecraft are getting launched. He says that people should keep outer space clean and that Space Administrations should dispose of space junk properly so they don’t have to deal with the problem of trash flying around in space.