How to Deal With Rocket Boosters and Other Giant Space Garbage
NOT TO ALARM you, but a SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage rocket booster is on track to crash into the moon. The giant tin can has been careening around the Earth and moon since it deployed a space weather-monitoring spacecraft for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2015. Now its wandering will end when it smashes into the far side of the moon on March 4, according to projections by Bill Gray, who writes software for tracking near-Earth objects.
As far as anyone can tell, it will be the first piece of space junk to smash into the moon, but it’s not expected to do any harm. On the other hand, it’s a symptom of a larger problem. Many derelict boosters have been abandoned over the past few decades in orbits around the Earth and sun, where their looming hulks pose risks of impacts with active spacecraft, including those that provide communications, broadband, GPS, and other services we depend on. Recently, news coverage has focused on the hazards of tiny shrapnel, like the bits from a derelict satellite that Russia blew up in November, which subsequently nearly sideswiped the International Space Station. But things can always get worse.