A wayward rocket will crash into the Moon on Friday, marking the first time that space junk is accidentally hitting the lunar surface. The four-tonne rocket body will smash into a crater on the Moon at a speed of 8,800 kilometres per hour.
The expected time of the impact, according to The Guardian is 12.25pm GMT (5.55pm IST). It further reported that the crash will create a huge crater, and also send moon dust and debris flying up 20 to 30 metres.
"Things have hit the moon in the past, but those were primarily deliberate impacts, or we tried to land and crashed on the surface," Dr Vishnu Reddy, associate professor at the University of Arizona, told The Guardian. "This is an impact of a rocket body that is unintentional," said the man whose team helped to identify the object.
The wayward rocket was earlier thought to be a chunk of SpaceX rocket that blasted off seven years ago and was abandoned in space after completing its mission.
But it is now believed to be the booster for the Chang'e 5-T1, launched in 2014 as part of the Chinese space agency's lunar exploration programme.
China, however, has rejected the claim, saying the booster in question had "safely entered the Earth's atmosphere and was completely incinerated".
The event will highlight the extent of space junk beyond Earth, where the US already tracks more than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris.
Astronomers say they won't be able to observe the crash directly, but hope the image will soon be taken by NASA's lunar orbiter or India's Chandrayaan 2, which is circling the Moon.
In September last year, Indian Space Research organization (ISRO) said Chandrayaan 2 completed 9,000 revolutions of the Moon and onboard instruments are functioning nominally.
India's second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan 2 was launched in July 2019 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota. The orbiter was injected into a lunar orbit on Sept 2, 2019. It carries eight experiments to address many open questions on lunar science.