On 11 February 2015, NASA and SpaceX sent a Falcon 9 rocket to put into orbit a small meteorological satellite: DSCOVR. The mission went without a hitch... if you ignore the part of the rocket that couldn't fall back down to Earth, and became an uncontrolled piece of space debris.
It's out of fuel
Whilst space junk is a serious problem, it's usually made of small bits and bobs orbiting above the Earth. But with its 2015 mission, SpaceX left behind the entire second stage of the rocket. So how on Earth (or space) did it happen? Aren't these sorts of missions planned down to the smallest detail?
In an article from 24 January, Ars Technica explained that this piece of the rocket detached as originally planned. But it found itself so high up that 'it had no fuel left to come back down to Earth.' So, it spent a whole 7 years orbiting the planet, but now its lonely voyage is about to come to a brutal end.
The crash should occur in early March
According to space observers, this uncontrolled and uncontrollable piece of rocket should end its course by slamming onto the Moon at a mind-boggling speed of 2.58 km/s! With no atmosphere to slow it down, that's almost 8 times the speed of sound! The crash is expected to take place around 4 March, although there is still some uncertainty as to the exact date of the collision.
This should make it the very first 'unintended' crash on our natural satellite, according to Bill Gray, the inventor of a program that tracks celestial objects such as asteroids or dwarf planets.
Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and this incident could prove to be useful. Indeed, the impact on the Moon's surface could help scientists in learning more about the chemical composition of the lunar crust.