China on Monday denied responsibility for a rocket set to crash into the moon, after experts said the piece of space junk likely came from Beijing’s lunar exploration program.
Astronomers initially thought the rebel object was a piece of a SpaceX rocket that exploded 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 program. The rocket is expected to crash on the far side of the moon on March 4th.
But the Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the claim Monday, saying the booster in question had “safely entered the Earth’s atmosphere and was completely incinerated.” Beijing “conscientiously supports the long-term sustainability of activities in space,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference.
China aimed to become a space superpower and took a pivotal step last year with launching the longest manned mission to its new space station. The second largest economy in the world has invested billions in its militarily managed space program and hopes to eventually send humans to the moon.