Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

The fuel quest that could be driving China’s mission to the moon

Yutu 2 leaving track marks as it begins to explore the surface of the far side of the moon Yutu 2 leaving track marks as it begins to explore the surface of the far side of the moon
Sandy Nunez | 07 January, 2019, 11:41

China's space agency says all systems are go for its spacecraft and rover that have made a pioneering landing on the far side of the moon.

The first photos from the landing, shared by the China National Space Administration on Thursday, show the first close-ups of the far side of the moon's cratered surface.

At 17:00 local time in Beijing, the three 5-meter antennas of the low-frequency radio spectrometer on the lander have fully spread out, said the CNSA in a statement. The ground control has been receiving geographic and geomorphic images of the moon's far side.

The radar and panorama camera on the rover have been operating smoothly and other devices will begin operation according to schedule.

The spacecraft's instrument sweet will allow Chang'e-4 to measure the mineral composition of the moon's far side.

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So scientists call the area where a Chinese spacecraft just landed the far side, not the dark side.

Chinese websites released several images captured during the lander's descent, and then revealed several more pictures taken of the mission's six-wheeled rover as it drove down a ramp and onto the lunar surface.

"I think this is very good evidence that we are now able to compete with the Americans", said energy company employee Yao Dajun. It is popularly called the "dark side" because it can't be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight. Yutu 2 has already put a fair bit of space between itself and the lander, trundling over near the rim of a small crater on the floor of Von Kármán, which itself lies within an even larger impact feature - the 1,550-mile-wide (2,500 km) South Pole-Aitken Basin. Both China's space community and public have taken pride in the accomplishment, with some drawing comparisons to the United States.

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space program, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.