Saturday, 23 February, 2019

China's lunar lander and rover 'wake up' after two-week nap

Chang'e 4 checks out the far side of the moon.                  China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Chang'e 4 checks out the far side of the moon. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
Theresa Hayes | 02 February, 2019, 14:15

The temperature of the moon's surface plunged to -310 degrees Fahrenheit (-190 degrees Celsius) during the first two-week-long lunar night that the Chinese lunar lander has experienced. Chang'e 4 launched December 7 and entered lunar orbit five days later.

"If you are in a part of the Moon where it is getting dark, you will notice that a lunar night has a duration of 14 terrestrial days, meaning that that part of the Moon would be kept in darkness for two weeks", explained the staff of the Caribbean Astronomy Society in a written statement.

Chang'e 4 landed specifically on the South Pole-Aitken Basin area of the moon and houses a rover named Yutu-2 which will physically explore the lunar surface. The far side of the Moon - that is, the side that we never see here on Earth when we gaze skyward - hasn't been studied in as great of detail as its near side. The challenge to find pieces of earth on the moon was taken up by research scientists Jeremy Bellucci and Alexander Nemchin of Swedish Museum of Natural History and they were joined in by Australia's Curtin University.

Both the lander and the rover ended the dormant mode automatically according to the elevation angle of the sunlight.

As a result of the tidal locking effect, the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, and the same side of the moon always faces Earth.

Apollo astronauts only gathered data from a small portion of sites on the moon's near side.

China landed its Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit", rover on the moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe there next year and have it return to Earth with samples - the first time that will have been done since 1976. Communication and data transmission between ground control and the probe via the relay satellite Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) are stable, said CNSA.

A number of experiments are planned for the spacecraft to conduct.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making it only the third country after Russian Federation and the United States to do so.

By landing on the dark side of the moon and successfully growing plants, China has made clear its ambition to become one of the world's major superpowers in space exploration.

The scientific tasks of the Chang'e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring neutron radiation and neutral atoms.