Chinese Lunar Rover to Explore Far Side of the Moon
China is the first country to explore the far side of the moon
China’s Chang’e-4 satellite landed today on the far side of the moon.
The landing makes China the first country to land a probe there. Chang’e-4 made a soft landing on the floor of the 186-kilometers Von Kármán Crater.
From 1969 to 1972, the United States conducted robotic and human missions on the moon’s surface, but none went to the far side. Although it’s a misnomer to call the far side of the moon the “dark side” as it receives as much sunlight as the near side, it is a more difficult task to explore the far side, as the moon’s mass blocks direct communication with any spacecraft there.
China is only the third country – after the United States and Russia – to send astronauts into space aboard its own rockets.
The Chang’e-4 mission – named for the moon goddess in Chinese mythology – includes orbiting, landing, and returning to Earth. It is the fourth mission after Chang’e-1, Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-3 missions in 2007, 2010 and 2013 respectively.
The instruments aboard the lander and the rover include cameras, ground-penetrating radar and spectrometers to help identify the composition of the area, which was formed by a meteorite. Scientists hope the rocks and dirt in the area will add to the understanding of the moon’s geology.
The lander will also conduct a biology experiment to see if plant seeds will germinate and silkworm eggs will hatch in the moon’s low gravity.
“This is a major achievement technically and symbolically,” said Namrata Goswami, an independent analyst who wrote about space for the Defense Department’s Minerva Research Institute to the New York Times. “China views this landing as just a steppingstone, as it also views its future manned lunar landing, since its long-term goal is to colonize the moon and use it as a vast supply of energy.”
Even with the U.S. government shutdown, this has also been a tremendous time for NASA. On New Years Eve NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space probe entered into orbit around the Bennu asteroid, the smallest object ever to be orbited by a spacecraft. Then, on New Years Day, the New Horizons space probe performed a flyby of Ultima Thule, an ancient snowman-shaped space object in the Kuiper Belt, 6.5 billion kilometers from Earth – the farthest object to have ever been explored by mankind.
|Source||The New York Times|