A rocket is expected to crash into the Moon in early March... so why aren't many experts concerned? This week, we examine the surprising reasons why.

A Rocket is About to Collide With the Moon… And That Might Be a Good Thing

Image: NASA

Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… with news that a derelict SpaceX rocket is currently on a collision course with the Moon, this week we’ll be looking at 1) the mission that put the Falcon 9 on its current trajectory, 2) how that mission enabled NOAA to predict potentially dangerous solar storms, and 3) why some experts aren’t particularly concerned about the rocket’s forthcoming rendezvous with the lunar surface, and 4) how our understanding of some of the Moon’s mysteries might actually be advanced by allowing future space junk impacts to occur.

Quote of the Week: 

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” 

– Marie Curie

Before we dive into things, a few of the stories we’re covering this week include new research that suggests how middle-aged men who worry more than their peers are at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiometabolic-related health issues. Also, as the ongoing saga of mystery drones seen at various high-security facilities around the world continues, Tim McMillan shares with us how Russia might have been involved in sightings of drones recently seen over Sweden.

Meanwhile in video news, the latest episode of The Debrief Tech Talk with Josh and Stefan features discussion about The SiOnyx Aurora Pro Night Vision Monocular, a must-have for any nighttime excursion in search of mystery drones and UAP. And for those who would like to get caught up on more recent stories from The Debrief, Cristina Gomez has you covered with this week’s installment of The Debrief Weekly News Roundup. As always, you can check out all of our other latest video news at The Debrief’s YouTube Channel, and I’ll be including a complete listing of all our most recent stories at the end of this newsletter.

With that behind us, it’s now time to get the latest scoop about a SpaceX rocket that is on its way toward a collision course with the Moon… but is that necessarily a bad thing? Read on, dear readers… and let’s see what the experts are saying.


A Rocket is Currently On a Collision Course with the Moon

Since it was launched in 2015, a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket has been following a peculiar orbit that experts say will ultimately lead to an impact with the Moon in early March.

Launched from Florida several years ago as part of a mission to carry NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory to its gravitationally neutral Lagrange point, L1 (a process similar to the mission phase recently completed by the James Webb Space Telescope and its team), the SpaceX rocket is now expected to impact with the lunar surface on March 4.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 seen as it launches from Kennedy Space Center (Image Credit: NASA HQ PHOTO/Flicker).

After the rocket successfully carried the NOAA observatory into space, its second stage lacked the necessary fuel either to bring it back into Earth’s atmosphere or to escape the gravitational influences of the Moon. As a result, the four-ton rocket has remained in orbit—albeit a chaotic one—since it was launched.

The payoff, of course, is that now NOAA is better equipped to warn us about future solar storms which, in the most severe instances, could potentially cause widespread damage here on Earth.


The NOAA Deep Space Climate Observatory

The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) which was carried into space with the February 2015 launch is designed to be able to provide as much as a 60-minute advance warning for massive coronal mass ejections by the Sun. NOAA’s inaugural deep-space operational satellite, the observatory can provide real-time monitoring which the agency calls “critical to the accuracy and lead time of NOAA’s space weather alerts and forecasts.”

According to a statement on NOAA’s web page for DSCOVR, “Without timely and accurate warnings, space weather events—like geomagnetic storms—have the potential to disrupt nearly every major public infrastructure system on Earth, including power grids, telecommunications, aviation and GPS.”


Currently positioned at L1, the observatory’s location is an ideal monitoring station “because the constant stream of particles from the Sun (the solar wind) reaches L1 up to an hour before reaching Earth.” That short window of an hour or less can be critical in terms of providing advance warning ahead of potentially destructive solar storms.

“DSCOVR data also helps improve predictions of geomagnetic storm impact locations,” NOAA’s FAQ page reads, citing everything from national security to our planet’s economic stability as being dependent on the observational capabilities DSCOVR is able to provide.


Now, About That Rocket That’s About to Smash into the Moon

Colliding with the lunar surface at an estimated velocity of more than a mile and a half per second, the derelict rocket is likely to make impact near the Moon’s equator on its far side.

However, if all this sounds dramatic, it’s worth noting that experts aren’t particularly concerned about the impact, and in fact, under slightly more ideal circumstances, manmade objects crashing into the Moon could actually be viewed as being a good thing.

“This is the first unintentional case of which I am aware,” wrote Bill Gray in a recent analysis of the situation. Gray tracks close to a dozen objects that are presently orbiting the Moon, mostly “so that the folks looking for asteroids will know where they are,” he says.

Artist’s concept of NASA’s LCROSS spacecraft, which made impact with the moon to collect data about its south pole in 2009 (Credit: NASA).

“In each case, I am rooting for a lunar impact,” Gray says. The reason is simple: scientists have had countless opportunities by now to observe what happens when orbital objects eventually fall back to Earth. By contrast, we still have many questions about the results of manmade objects colliding with the Moon. Case in point, Gray notes that in 2009, a rocket booster was actually directed toward impact with the Moon on purpose, with the aim of monitoring when it hit and seeing what was revealed by the ejecta.

Unfortunately, since the Falcon 9 currently on its way to the Moon will make impact on its far side, we won’t be in much of a position to learn much this time around. Quite obviously, such events aren’t a common thing either, especially if this is the first known instance of such an object unintentionally colliding with the Moon.


A Few Lunar Impacts in the Future Might Actually Be a Good Thing

For his own part, Gray says that he hopes future missions will include efforts to help ensure the likelihood that rocket boosters will collide with the Moon, suggesting that “folks launching these missions [should] think about where their boosters are going, and to leave them in orbits that will intersect the moon.”

“I would be a big fan of this,” Gray says, “but it does not seem to have been on the radar for either CNSA or NASA.” Maybe not yet at least. However, with the continuing prevalence of cooperation between NASA and other government space programs with their commercial partners, perhaps the idea shouldn’t be left off the table. Putting our space junk to use in such novel ways may one day help to afford us new discoveries about Earth’s lonely natural satellite.

That concludes this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] the debrief.org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.

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