FREMONT, Calif. — Ursula Haeussler still remembers the frenzy of that day more than a century ago. She had just sat down for breakfast at the kitchen table as the maid began the morning chores at their home on a small farm in a rural, idyllic German town. Suddenly, just as the maid began fixing her apron, she collapsed onto the floor. Haeussler's uncle and father immediately sprung into action, attempting to revive the unconscious woman before carrying her onto a cart and taking her to the nearest doctor. The young girl's mind whirled with confusion, wondering what had just happened. Only days...
Asteroid-hunter Bill Gray has been keeping tabs on the 4-tonne booster since its launch. This month he realised his orbit-tracking software projected the booster will slam into the lunar surface on March 4, moving at more than 9,000 kilometres per hour.
The booster is tumbling wildly as it travels, which adds some uncertainty to the timing and location of the predicted impact. It is likely to occur on the far side of the Moon, so it won’t be visible from Earth.
Some astronomers say the collision is “not a big deal”, but to a space archaeologist like me it’s quite exciting. It will be the Moon’s newest archaeological site, joining more than 100 other locations that document human activity on the Moon and in cislunar space.
A history of crash landing on the Moon
The impact will leave a new crater on the dark side of the Moon.
The very first human-made artefact to make contact with the Moon was the Soviet Luna 2 in 1959 - an extraordinary feat, as it was only two years after the launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite.
The mission consisted of a rocket, a probe, and three “bombs”. One released a cloud of sodium gas to enable the crash to be seen from Earth. The USSR didn’t want the groundbreaking mission to be called a hoax.
The other two “bombs” were spheres of pentagonal medallions inscribed with the date and Soviet symbols. If they exploded as planned, they would have scattered 144 medallions over the lunar surface.
Other crashes have been missions gone wrong, like the Israeli Beresheet lander in 2019. This was especially controversial as the lander carried a secret cargo of dried tardigrades, tiny creatures that could be revived in the presence of water.
Various spacecraft have naturally decayed and fallen out of orbit, like the Japanese relay satellite Okina in 2009. Others have been intentionally crashed at the end of their mission life.
The NASA Ebb and Flow spacecraft were deliberately crashed into the lunar south pole in 2012, specifically to avoid any risk of damaging the Apollo landing sites. Impacting at a speed of 6,000km per hour, they left craters 6 metres across.
The upper images show the landscape before impact and the lower images show the craters and the dark ejecta.
Many crashes have been used to collect seismic data. Observations from the controlled impact of Saturn third-stage boosters and ascent modules from the Apollo missions were particularly valuable, as timing, location and impact energy were known.
The Falcon 9 rocket stage is significantly larger than the tiny Ebb and Flow spacecraft and is travelling faster. The crash will make a much larger crater, which will kick up chunks of rock and dust. On this airless world, the dust could travel a fair way before settling down.
The only other spacecraft on the Moon’s far side are the US Ranger 4 probe, which crashed in 1962, and China’s Chang-e 4 lander and Yutu-2 rover. Yutu-2 is still trundling along the lunar surface on its six wheels.
Yutu’s latest results show that “soil” on the far side may be stickier than the near side, and there is a higher density of small craters.
The rocket stage could potentially cause damage to these historic spacecraft, if it lands on or near them. However, this is statistically unlikely. Current predictions have it landing in Hertzsprung crater, a long way from the Aitken basin where the Chinese spacecraft are operating.
Although there are no cameras to observe the crash, at some point NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is likely to pass over and image the impact point.
We’ll learn something about the geology of the location from the colour differences and distribution of the ejected material. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the Moon’s mysterious far side.
Changing attitudes to space junk
In the earlier Space Age, little thought was given to leaving what many call “trash” on the lunar surface.
The Moon is sometimes considered a “dead” world because it has no life. The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Planetary Protection Policy does not require any special precautions for lunar activities.
But there is a growing awareness the Moon has distinct environmental values of its own. The Declaration of the Rights of the Moon, created by a group of independent researchers, states the Moon has “the right to exist, persist and continue its vital cycles unaltered, unharmed and unpolluted by human beings”.
Canadian researchers Eytan Tepper and Christopher Whitehead have suggested the Moon could be protected by giving it legal personhood, much like the Whanganui river in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The Moon is struck by meteors all the time. In many ways, the Falcon 9 impact will be just another one. What makes it interesting is how it acts as a litmus test for changing public opinions about our responsibilities to the space environment.
The public is looking for accountability from space agencies and private corporations. As plans for lunar mining and habitation accelerate, hopefully it’s a message that is ready to be heard.
Meghan McCain called Sarah Palin "stupid, reckless and arrogant" for eating in public — not once, but twice — after testing positive for COVID-19.
The political scion and former host of "The View" also told The Daily Mail (where she has a regular column) that she was "embarrassed" to have once called the former Alaska governor her friend after her recent anti-vax turn, a particularly biting comment given the fact that her late father, Sen. John McCain, had chosen Palin as his running mate during the 2008 presidential election.
The entire saga began earlier this week when Palin was spotted eating out at a swanky Italian restaurant, Campagnola, on Manhattan's Upper East Side — a confounding situation given her very public refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine and New York City's strict vaccination rules. The very next night, she was seen at another fancy Upper East Side establishment, Elio's, dining indoors alongside four other people.
With public fascination concentrated on how she gained admission to both establishments, The New York Times revealed that she had tested positive just days before traveling to the city for a defamation trial against the paper, a detail that emerged when she requested that the trial's start date be pushed back.
A manager at Elio's, Luca Guaitolini, later admitted to making a "mistake" in allowing Palin to dine indoors, saying that the staff was investigating and wanted "to get to the bottom of this."
"She probably just walked in and strolled over," Guaitolini told the Times.
It was a decision that didn't sit right with McCain — who said the decision to go outside when knowingly positive might have infected someone who is at higher risk of serious symptoms.
"Is she crazy? Day two?" McCain fumed. "I haven't seen her or talked to her for many years, aside from some short emails when my father passed, so I can't imagine what she is thinking but this is highly irresponsible."
"This was selfish, reckless and stupid. Just because it's not illegal doesn't mean it is not unethical."
"This is why she shouldn't be in politics anymore. You have to lead by example. I'm embarrassed to have once known her."
‘I hope your children get molested!’ Trump supporter accused of threatening election workers on Jan. 7
An apparent supporter of former president Donald Trump is facing federal charges after allegedly making multiple threatening phone calls to elections officials in the Nevada Secretary of State's Office on Jan. 7, 2021 — one day after the Capitol insurrection.
Gjergi Luke Juncaj, 50, of Las Vegas was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday and charged with four counts of making threatening phone calls, each punishable by up to two years in prison, according to the Department of Justice.
Ostensibly inspired by Trump's false claims of widespread fraud in the November 2020 election, Juncaj first called the Secretary of State's Office at 8:07 a.m. on Jan. 7 and was transferred to the elections division, according to a criminal indictment.
“I want to thank you for such a great job you all did on stealing the election,” Juncaj allegedly told an employee. “I hope you all go to jail for treason. I hope your children get molested. You are all going to f*cking die.”
Twelve minutes later, Juncaj called again and was transferred to the same employee. "You are all going to die," he repeated in a raised voice.
Five minutes after that, Juncaj called again and said: "You guys really f*cked this election up," adding that election officials were "all going to die."
"This is what you're going to f*cking get from now on," Juncaj said on a fourth call that morning. "You are all going to f*cking die and it is what you deserve."
After the employee reported the threats to the Nevada Capitol Police, an officer called Juncaj's number. Juncaj allegedly raised his voice and accused the officer of harassing him.
The case against Juncaj was brought by the DOJ's Election Threats Task Force, which was formed last June "to address threats of violence against election workers, and to ensure that all election workers — whether elected, appointed or volunteer — are able to do their jobs free from threats and intimidation."
In December, Reuters documented more than 850 threatening and hostile messages aimed at election officials and staff related to the 2020 election, in 30 jurisdictions in 16 states.