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New Lunar Crater

  • Published
    12th Mar, 2022
Context

Recently, a leftover piece of a spacecraft flying (of Chang'e 5-T1 – a lunar mission of China) through space reportedly hit the surface of the moon creating a new crater that may be around 65 feet wide.

  • This is the first recorded unintentional case of space junk hitting the moon.
About

About Space Junk

  • About: Space debris, also called space junk, artificial material that is orbiting Earth but is no longer functional.
    • This material can be as large as a discarded rocket stage or as small as a microscopic chip of paint.
  • Location: Much of the debris is in low Earth orbit, within 2,000 km of Earth’s surface, though some debris can be found in geostationary orbit 35,786 km above the Equator.
  • Issue (Kessler Syndrome): The free floating space debris is a potential hazard for operational satellites and colliding with them can leave the satellites dysfunctional.
    • This is referred to as Kessler Syndrome, named after NASA scientist Donald Kessler in 1978.
    • It says if there is too much space junk in orbit, it could result in a chain reaction where more and more objects will collide and create new space junk in the process, to the point where Earth’s orbit becomes unusable – a Domino Effect.
    • With countries launching more and more satellites, each one of them being a strategic or commercial asset, avoiding collisions could become a challenge in the future.
  • Solution: Clearspace-1 (of European Space Agency), which is scheduled to launch in 2025, will be the first space mission to eliminate debris from orbit.

What are Lunar Craters?

  • Lunar Craters are bowl-shaped landforms created by Volcanism and Cratering, about 4.5 billion years ago, shortly after Earth was formed.
  • There are hundreds of thousands of moon craters ranging from less than a mile across to giant basins.
  • The largest crater on the Moon is called South Pole-Aitken Basin.
  • Further, throughout its existence, the Moon has been bombarded by comets and asteroid chunks, and those created the many impact craters we see today.
  • Moon’s lack of water, atmosphere, and tectonic plates, there is little erosion, and craters are found that exceed two billion years in age.
  • Mitra Crater on Moon is named after Indian radio physicist Sisir Kumar Mitra.

About Sisir Kumar Mitra

  • Mitra led the research in ionosphere–the upper region of the atmosphere–and radiophysics.
  • He was the first to introduce the teaching of radio communication in India.
  • His book, ‘Upper Atmosphere’ published in 1947 is still considered the Bible for research workers in the field of ionosphere.
  • In the 1950s, he advocated space research and high altitude rocket research programmes which had been successfully conducted by the US and USSR.
  • Soon after his death in 1963, India set up rocket and launching stations near the geomagnetic equatorial line and a large number of rockets and satellites were fired, bringing invaluable information of the upper atmosphere and beyond.

How are Lunar craters formed?

  • Moon craters are bowl-shaped landforms created by two processes: volcanism and cratering. There are hundreds of thousands of moon craters ranging from less than a mile across to giant basins called mare, which were once thought to be seas.
  • The largest crater on the Moon is called South Pole-Aitkin Basin. It’s about 1,600 miles across (2,500 kilometers). It’s also among the oldest of the Moon’s impact basins and formed just a few hundred million years or so after the Moon itself was formed.
  • Because of the Moon’s lack of water, atmosphere, and tectonic plates, there is little erosion, and craters are found that exceed two billion years in age.

What is the Difference between Craters on the Moon and Earth?

  • Both the earth and the moon have been hit by multiple objects like asteroids throughout their existence, but craters on the moon are of a more permanent nature than those on earth.
  • This is because of processes like erosion, tectonics, and volcanism.
  • According to NASA, these three processes keep the surface of the earth crater-free and remove traces of collisions that have happened in the past.
  • Currently, the earth has less than 200 known craters while the moon has thousands.
  • An absence of atmosphere means there is no wind system and no weather on the moon, and hence no cause for erosion of existing craters.
  • The absence of tectonics prevents the moon’s surface from forming new rocks or causing a shift in the existing surface patterns, unlike that on earth.
  • Lastly, the absence of volcanism (in recent history) makes it impossible for craters to be covered.
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