Wednesday, 20 March, 2019


China set to launch the first ever rover to Moons far side

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Kristine Garrett | 05 January, 2019, 03:38

China is set to launch its next mission to the moon; it sent the Chang'e 3 mission to the moon back in 2013. The lander could survive much longer, though; whereas the Chang'e 3 rover died after a single Earth day, its lander is still operational today after more than five years.

The launch of Chang'e 4's lander and rover suggests the completion of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme (CLEP), one of 16 key technologies identified by the Chinese government.

Leonard David, a space industry expert wrote on Space.com that, "The spacecraft will also perform radio-astronomical studies that, because the far side always faces away from Earth, will be free from interference from our planet's ionosphere, human-made radio frequencies and auroral radiation noise".

China's robotic Chang'e 4 spacecraft streaked away from Earth today (Dec. 7), launching atop a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at about 1:23 p.m. EST (1823 GMT; 2:23 a.m. on December 8 local China time).

China's National Space Administration is believed to be targeting the robotic lander at the Von Karaman crater, near the Moon's south pole.

To facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang'e 4 mission, China in May launched a relay satellite named Queqiao, or "Magpie Bridge", after an ancient Chinese folk tale.

One reason no attempt has ever been made to visit the distant side of the moon is that the lack of a line of sight makes direct communications with a spacecraft hard. There are indications that the landing could take place around january 3, because of the sunrise then over the Von Karman crater. Queqiao is collecting astronomy data as well, using an onboard instrument called the Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer. Since the probe and Rover on the moon back in the radio shadow on the earth, China was brought in may, a transmission satellite, to serve as a Relay Station. This time, however, the agency said that it wants to establish permanent settlements on the lunar surface.

Reports indicate that the rover might also carry plant seeds and silkworm eggs.

The last preparations for the trip "behind the moon" run. Two probes have been put in Lunar orbit, Chang'e-1 and 2. Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, stopped moving due to a mechanical problem about 40 days after the lunar rover landed there.

And then there's the crewed side of things.

"The design of the Chang'e 4 lunar rover has been improved based on the previous one, meaning it could work for at least a few years on the moon", Wu Weiren, chief designer of the CLEP, said in August.

The country also plans to launch its first Mars probe by the end of this decade, according to a white paper on China's space activities issued in 2016.

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