A SpaceX rocket is on a collision course with the moon after spending almost seven years hurtling through space, experts say.
The booster was originally launched from Florida in February 2015 as part of an interplanetary mission to send a space weather satellite on a million-mile journey.
But after completing a long burn of its engines and sending the NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory on its way to the Lagrange point, the rocket’s second stage became derelict.
At this stage it was high enough that it did not have enough fuel to return to Earth’s atmosphere but also “lacked the energy to escape the gravity of the Earth-Moon system”, meteorologist Eric Berger said.
“So it has been following a somewhat chaotic orbit since February 2015,” Berger added.
Space observers believe the rocket is on course to intersect with the moon at a velocity of about 2.58km/s in a matter of weeks.
Bill Gray, who writes software to track near-Earth objects, asteroids, minor planets, and comets, has said the Falcon 9’s upper stage will very likely hit the far side of the moon, near the equator, on 4 March.
The exact spot the rocket will hit remains unclear due to the unpredictable effect of sunlight “pushing” on the rocket and “ambiguity in measuring rotation periods” which may slightly alter its orbit.
Nevertheless, space enthusiasts believe the impact could provide valuable data.
Berger believes the event will allow for observation of subsurface material ejected by the rocket’s strike, while Gray says he is “rooting for a lunar impact”.