NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Spots Mystery Rocket Impact Site on Moon

Artist’s animation of a rocket booster crashing into the moon.

Astronomers discovered a rocket body heading toward a lunar collision late last year. Impact occurred on March 4, 2022, with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) later spotting the resulting crater. Surprisingly the crater is actually two craters, an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards).

This animated GIF confirms the location of the newly formed rocket body double crater. The before image is LRO’s view from February 28, 2022 (M1400727806L). The after image is from May 21, 2022 (M1407760984R). The width of the frame is 367 meters, about 401 yards. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may indicate its identity.

A rocket body impacted the Moon on March 4, 2022, near Hertzsprung crater, creating a double crater roughly 28 meters wide in the longest dimension. LROC NAC M1407760984R; image enlarged 3x. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

No other rocket body impacts on the Moon created double craters. The four Apollo SIV-B craters were somewhat irregular in outline (Apollos 13, 14, 15, 17) and were substantially larger (greater than 35 meters, about 38 yards) than each of the double craters. The maximum width (29 meters, about 31.7 yards) of the double crater of the mystery rocket body was near that of the S-IVBs.

These four images show craters formed by impacts of the Apollo SIV-B stages: crater diameters range from 35 to 40 meters (38.2 to 43.7 yards) in the longest dimension. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is a robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. LRO data is essential for planning NASA’s upcoming human and robotic missions to the Moon.

The crater formed (5.226 degrees north, 234.486 degrees east, 1,863 meters elevation) in a complex area where the impact of ejecta from the Orientale basin event overlies the degraded northeast rim of Hertzsprung basin (536 kilometers (333 miles) diameter). The new crater is not visible in this view, but its location is indicated by the white arrow. LROC WAC mosaic, 110 kilometers (68 miles) width. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

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, LRO has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge about the Moon.

Full resolution (100 cm pixels) image centered on the new rocket body impact double crater. NAC M1407760984R, image width 1,100 meters. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

With Artemis, NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners to expand human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.

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Comments ( 41 )
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  • Edward Bear

    The animation supplied does not even show the impact crater afterward, so it’s just click-bait.

  • J

    Useless article. No quotes, no explanation of what it could be, no history of this happening or not before, no mention of what’s being done, or even if there are Apollo SIV-Bs flooring around that this could even be. Utterly uninformative and disorienting to read.

  • GG

    What’s funny there was so much hate for SpaceX when people thought it was their booster when had over 3 different spacecraft already impact the face of the moon anyways. Where is all the hate now?

  • Titch

    Fake. There woukd be no bright explosion on the moon as that woukd require combustion, which would require oxygen of which there is none on the moon.

    • Ian Jaffray

      I guess the sun can’t shine then. I guess the filament in a lightbulb can’t glow then.

      C’mon, dude, think before you post.

      • DCW

        I hope you’re trolling, because everything you just said is so wildly uneducated that my brain hurts. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

    • Remy

      Re: Titch, it says it right there in the caption: “Artist’s animation”.

  • Tia

    Are they saying that an unknown entity bombed the moon or am I missing something?

    • Remy

      No, just a rocket booster segment of currently unidentified origin crashing into it.

  • Conrad Mwesigye

    Personally, l hate when NASA tells lies to the World and nothing NASA has achieved in space but lies always

    • Anonymous

      Alright then, bud. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

  • Clayton

    Wow did you people READ the article and READ the captions to the photos and gifs supplied within said article? Literally explains everything you all claim is fake useless click-bait.

  • Jim

    Strange how the rocket body appears to be coming directly from the sat, That has the camera. But it’s a mystery where it came from.

    • Remy

      Note the caption: “artist’s animation”. Just an approximation, not the actual thing.

  • Vegas

    It does it’s the figure 8

  • Andrew

    It’s in the dead center of the gif.. the two images were taken at different times (obviously) so the moon was in a different location hence why the shadows cast are different.. just like when something casts a shadow in one direction in the morning and the other direction in the evening. The only thing that wasn’t explained was whose rocket it is believed to be.. they only gave reason as to why it was not NASA’s.

  • Andrew

    Also the animation at the top is an artists rendition of what happens.. not the actual event. We don’t know the trajectory or how close it was to the satellite.. just a before and after image.

  • Randy Whisenhunt

    So, nobody even has a theory about where it came from?

  • Ben Zyl

    And of course there’s an ‘artists impression’ to compensate for the near total absence of any other information, well done you for this lazy attempt at ‘popular science’.

  • Guy H. Soares

    Actually happened folks, fools for being sooo contrary, to what evidence was supplied in said article. Where is the blind faith? Why all the hate. If you don’t understand it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It’s part of not being afraid to Learn. Thanks

  • TheCapnVideo

    This was a Chinese booster that had been in wide Earth orbit and fell into moon’s gravity well. We knew it was going to happen. The photo is a before-after GIF you may need to click it to have the animation loop. IF that was an explosion it would be because there was propellant remaining in the booster.

  • Alec Barker

    Did it bounce? Or at least some of it. But I suppose to do that it would need to be incredibly strong to survive the first hit

  • Bruce Lane .

    It’s China’s, leave it be.

  • GG

    It’s all fake! You sheep!

    • Anonymous

      I’m sorry, but whenever somebody uses the term “sheep” when referring to people unironically, it makes me laugh out loud.

  • Dgen

    Seven powerful instruments on board nasas lro may be they should of just put one it’s called a Nikon. All you guys taking up for nasa in comment section, there is gonna come a day when your gonna get sick of artists rendition, think about it for just a second, REALLY! why is it in 2022 it’s still just artists rendition and nothing but hypothesis statements coming from them. Probably shouldn’t even use the word hypothesis

  • Aaron

    They should restrict people with poor reading and comprehension skills from comments.So many stupid questions.

  • Jack

    My sources tell me it was Chinese but that is still unofficial

  • Mr. Robot

    How sad that we have treated earth like our own personal dumpster and now here we are dumping our junk on the moon. The human species is a virus that continues to spread even with the risk of self destruction.

  • M G

    Morons the lot, read. Right under the top 2 photos, and animations it says, artist animation. And the first is a freeze frame from that animation… the lot of you watch you much star wars and star trek and listen to too much steave Bannon crap.

  • Joe

    Fake.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the elaboration, Joe.

  • RECV

    Very cool mystery! Have they found its origin yet? Reminds me of a time in about 1974, I was sitting at a rural stop light, when I saw a (presumed) rocket body tumbling through the atmosphere, in flames. Never heard a word about it in the media.

  • DevoDevoDevo

    @Aaron
    “They should restrict people with poor reading and comprehension skills from comments.”

    INDEED! 👍

  • T

    It is fake. The footage is implausible, and the article explains nothing.

    • Anonymous

      Read. The. Caption. It says, clear as day, “Artists Animation.”

  • Charles Anderson

    It’s not a mistrery the scientists years ago shot the moon with a rocket looking for water

  • Dr K

    Unknown origin? What happened to NASA’s globally distributed tracking stations (JPL headquartered at Cal Tech in Pasadena, CA)? They are charged with tracking near earth space objects, including space junk?

  • Flat mooner

    First de blur the image, then clear the noise of the image , bring up the shadow , and adjust the contrast then zoom in and explain what you see all around.

  • Orb Shipp

    Could be a test run for fireing at objects comeing to near earth ??? Think outside the box.what is the real message hear?

  • Scott

    Oxygen is required for an open flame but not necessarily for an explosion. Heat generated by friction can cause an explosion, no oxygen required. In fact an asteroid with a solid iron core and measuring only 600 feet across can generate enough heat wile falling through Earths atmosphere to compress its iron core to the point of causing a nuclear explosion.