Tuesday, 25 June, 2019

Chinese rover powers up on moon mission

The Yutu 2 rover moving farther across the moon's surface The Yutu 2 rover moving farther across the moon's surface
Sandy Nunez | 07 January, 2019, 02:53

Photos of the rover leaving "humankind's first tracks" were sent back to Earth by the lander after the rover separated from it. Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar mission for the China National Space Administration, called the separation "a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation".

On Wednesday night (Jan. 2), the Chang'e 4 rover and its stationary-lander companion pulled off the first-ever soft touchdown on the lunar far side, coming to a rest inside the 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) Von Kármán Crater.

"The Chang'e-4 probe, comprised of a robotic lander and a rover, touched down at the preselected landing area at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude on the far side of the Moon at 10:26 a.m. Beijing Time", Chang'e-4 team members said.

The Jade Rabbit 2 rover has succeeded in establishing a digital transmission link with a relay satellite that sends data back to the Beijing control center, the space agency said in a posting late Friday on its website. The rover's radar and panoramic camera have also been activated and are working normally.

The Moon's far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

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After sending the rover off from a ramp, the spacecraft deployed three 5-meter (16-foot) low-frequency radio antennas, the Chinese space agency said.

The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral makeup, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side. When there's a full moon in our sky, the far side is dark.

It's also a major first step for China's future lunar missions and bigger space ambitions.

The landing is the latest step for China in its race to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States and become a major space power by 2030.

China's space program lags America's, but has made great strides in the past 15 years, including manned flights and a space laboratory that is seen as a precursor to plans for a space station.