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Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero April 4, 2024

Is NASA ‘shooting three rockets at three moons’? That’s False

If Your Time is short

  • NASA is launching three sounding rockets at a maximum altitude of 260 miles April 8. It is not shooting the rockets "at three moons."

  • Here’s how PolitiFact chooses which statements to fact-check.

The Earth has only one natural satellite — the moon. But social media users claim the Earth has three moons, and NASA is shooting three rockets at them April 8, the day of the total solar eclipse. 

"NASA is shooting up three rockets on the eclipse. Guess what they’re calling it? Serpent’s deity," he said. "Shooting three rockets at three moons."

(Screenshot from Facebook)

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) 

NASA is not shooting three rockets at three moons. It is launching three sounding rockets April 8 into the "moon’s shadow" to "study how Earth’s upper atmosphere is affected when sunlight momentarily dims over a portion of the planet." Sounding rockets can take science instruments between 30 to 300 miles above Earth’s surface. Because sounding rockets never enter orbit, they need neither expensive boosters nor extended tracking coverage. 

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The rockets will study changes in the ionosphere caused by the eclipse. The ionosphere is an electrified region 55 to 310 miles above Earth’s surface that "reflects and refracts radio signals." The mission aims to collect data on potential disturbances that may interfere with communications.

According to NASA, the sounding rockets of the Atmospheric Perturbations around Eclipse Path, or APEP, mission are expected to reach a maximum altitude of 260 miles, or 420 kilometers. That distance pales compared with the average distance to the moon, which is 238,855 miles. The moon’s path around Earth is elliptical, so the moon’s distance from the Earth varies.

This is not the first time NASA will conduct such a mission. The sounding rockets were also launched during the October 2023 solar eclipse. The name APEP was chosen for the same-named serpent deity from ancient Egyptian mythology. Apep supposedly pursued the sun deity Ra and "every so often nearly consumed him, resulting in an eclipse."

We rate the claim that NASA is "shooting three rockets at three moons" False.

RELATED: No, NASA doesn’t have a mission to cause ‘mass psychosis’ during the April 8 solar eclipse

Our Sources

Facebook post (archived), March 30, 2024

PolitiFact, No, NASA doesn’t have a mission to cause ‘mass psychosis’ during the April 8 solar eclipse, April 2, 2024

Forbes, Why NASA Will Fire Three Rockets At The Solar Eclipse, March 26, 2024

NASA, To Study Atmosphere, NASA Rockets Will Fly into Oct. Eclipse’s Shadow, Sept. 29, 2023

NASA, NASA to Launch Sounding Rockets into Moon’s Shadow During Solar Eclipse, March 25, 2024

NASA, Distance to the Moon, accessed April 4, 2024

NASA, Moon Facts, accessed April 4, 2024

NASA, About sounding rockets, accessed April 4, 2024

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Is NASA ‘shooting three rockets at three moons’? That’s False

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