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Moon's world to be rocked as tons of space junk likely to punch 20 m hole

Published: 7th Mar, 2022


The moon is about to get walloped by 3 tons of space junk.


Why in news?

  • On 4 March, humanity will set a record for littering when an old rocket booster smashes into the far side of the Moon.
  • It will be the first time a piece of human-made space debris has hit a celestial body other than Earth without being aimed there.
  • The moon is about to get walloped by 3 tons of space junk, a punch that will carve out a crater that could fit several semitractor-trailers.
  • The leftover rocket will smash into the far side of the moon at 5,800 mph (9,300 kph).
  • The booster is probably part of a rocket that launched a small Chinese spacecraft, called Chang’e 5-T1, towards the Moon in 2014.
  • Although Chang’e 5-T1 returned to Earth successfully, the booster is thought to have been zipping around chaotically in space ever since.
  • Lunar gravity is now drawing it close, and will soon pull it into a fatal collision with the far side of the Moon.
  • The smash-up is expected to produce a puff of debris and leave behind a small crater.


  • Scientists expect the object to carve out a hole 33 feet to 66 feet (10 to 20 meters) across and send moon dust flying hundreds of miles (kilometers) across the barren, pockmarked surface.
  • The Goldstone Solar System Radar near Barstow, California, is set to observe the object a few days before impact.
  • NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will look for changes in the moon's exosphere, a very thin layer of gases due to the crash and then later scan the lunar surface for the impact crater itself.

About Space Debris:

  • Space junk is any piece of machinery or debris left by humans in space—principally in Earth orbit.
  • These include dead satellites, fragments of rocket bodies and spacecraft etc.

Kessler syndrome:

  • This is an idea proposed by 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 became unusable – a Domino Effect.
  • 12 fragmentation events have already taken place every year for the past two decades.

Initiatives taken to tackle the problem:

  • Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee
    • IADC is an inter-governmental forum whose aim is to co-ordinate efforts to deal with debris in orbit around the Earth founded in 1993.
    • NORAD
    • North American Aerospace Defense Command, is an initiative of the U.S. and Canada that shares selective debris data with many countries.
    • ClearSpace-1 Mission
    • In this a "chaser" with its four robotic arms will grab the leftover of 2013 craft known as VESPA (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) and drag it down to Earth's atmosphere where both will burn up.
    • To be launched in 2025.
    • ELSA-d, Mission
    • ELSA-d (End-of-Life Services b), will test technologies to capture an object in low-Earth orbit and move it to a lower altitude, where it will eventually burn up harmlessly in Earth's atmosphere.
  • Starship
    • Space X Starship – the passenger?carrying spacecraft once ready can collect and de-orbit space junk apart as well.
    • NEO-01’
    • China launched a low Earth orbit robot prototype called ‘NEO-01’.
    • It can scoop up space debris left behind by other spacecraft with a big net.
    • NEO-01, was launched on Long March 6 rocket.
    • NEO-01 will use a net to capture space debris and then burn it with its electric propulsion system.
    • The NEO-01, will also peer into deep space to observe small celestial bodies.
    • The 30kg robot will pave the way for future technologies capable of mining on asteroids.



ISRO’s efforts:


  • To safeguard its space assets from space debris, ISRO had set up a dedicated Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Control Centre named “Netra” in Bengaluru last December.
  • Netra’s key objective is to monitor, track and protect the national space assets and function as a hub of all SSA activities.
  • Only the US, Russia and Europe have similar facilities in place to track space objects and share collision warnings.
  •  India’s Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missile:
  • Mission Shakti is a joint programme of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • As part of the mission, an anti-satellite (A-SAT) weapon was launched and targeted an Indian satellite which had been decommissioned. Mission Shakti was carried out from DRDO’s testing range in Odisha’s Balasore.


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