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Apollo 16 rocket impact site mystery solved

Posted on Saturday, 9 January, 2016 | Comment icon 9 comments

An S-IVB rocket stage in orbit around the Earth. Image Credit: NASA
Scientists have finally discovered the spot where Apollo 16's S-IVB rocket stage impacted on the moon.
Beginning with the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, the third stage of NASA's huge Saturn V rocket was sent to impact the lunar surface rather than being left to float through space, a move designed to provide scientists with important new data about the moon's interior structure.

While the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has since discovered the crash sites of the S-IVB's from the Apollo 13, 14, 15 and 17 missions, the Apollo 16 booster's site has long eluded detection.

Now however, more than 43 years after it smacked in to the lunar surface, the long lost S-IVB crash site has finally been located around 160 miles southwest of Copernicus Crater.

It was found using old tracking data recorded during the original Apollo 16 mission.

"The craters from the booster impacts are unusual because they are formed by very low-density projectiles traveling at relatively low velocity (2.6 km per second; 5,800 mph)," the team wrote.

"Much of the energy went into crushing the booster, and only a shallow crater was formed."

Source: | Comments (9)

Tags: Apollo 16, Moon, Rocket

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 9 January, 2016, 11:47
An image of the impact crater can be found in UMs .
Comment icon #2 Posted by pallidin on 9 January, 2016, 17:56
Great article read! Was unaware of most of it.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Goodnite on 9 January, 2016, 21:27
I always forget that we left a lot of space junk on the moon.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Aitrui on 9 January, 2016, 22:21
Funnily enough, that's probably the best moon landing evidence I've seen yet, assuming its not a composite image of course! Won't believe anything until I see it with my own eyes (as far as I can believe my own eyes of course lol!). Bit like the Ceres spot too.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 9 January, 2016, 23:00
So an image of crater on a Moon full of craters is better evidence for Apollo than images of the actual Apollo hardware on the Moon taken by the same satellite?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Likely Guy on 10 January, 2016, 1:48
Cool! Any knowledge if the smaller crater to the southeast is part that impact?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Peter B on 10 January, 2016, 10:24
I reckon it's unlikely. It's certainly a lot brighter than the rest of the Moon in that picture, but that only means it's relatively young. The rocket stages were intact until impact, so it's not likely to have been caused by some stray material "falling off" the stage as it approached the Moon. That means the only possible cause for the crater would be as a secondary impact - an impact caused by something blasted out by the main impact. I think that's unlikely in this case because the crater you refer to is quite large in proportion to the main impact crater. A... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 10 January, 2016, 11:40
Peter B's conclusion is, almost word for word, the same as mine. Likewise. What is interesting to me is that the impact crater caused by the S-IVB is elongated, almost double lobed, I wonder if the S-IVB struck the moon side first rather than end first. I suspect once it had been aimed at the moon it would just have been left to tumble so this seems quite possible to me, although once again I stand to be corrected.

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