Astronomers last year discovered the body of a rocket headed for a collision with the moon. The impact occurred on March 4, and the resulting crater was later discovered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Surprisingly, the crater is actually made up of two craters, an eastern crater (18 meters in diameter, about 19.5 yards) overlying a west crater (16 meters in diameter, about 17.5 yards).

The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that each end of the rocket body has a lot of mass. Typically, the mass of a spent rocket is concentrated on the engine end; the rest of the rocket stage consists mostly of an empty fuel tank. As the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the dual nature of the crater may indicate its identity.

No other rocket body has struck the Moon with a double crater. The four Apollo SIV-B craters are somewhat irregular in outline (Apollo 13, 14, 15, 17) and are much larger than each of the twin craters (greater than 35 meters, about 38 yards). The maximum width of the double crater of the mysterious rocket body (29 meters, about 31.7 yards) is close to that of the S-IVB.

The LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Launched on June 18, 2009, the LRO has collected a wealth of data using its seven powerful instruments, making invaluable contributions to our understanding of the Moon. NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners to expand the human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.

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