China’s Chang’e-4 Lunar Probe, First To Land on the Dark Side of the Moon
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On Thursday, January 3, 2019, China’s space program became the first to land on the so-called dark side of the moon. USA, Soviet Union, and China have all sent spacecraft to the side of the moon facing Earth, aka the near side of the moon. But this is the fist landing on the other side, the dark side of the moon. China National Space Administration landed the Chang’e-4 lunar explorer at 10:26 a.m., opening up a new chapter in human lunar exploration.
For the first time in history, there is a rover on the far side of the moon and the Chang’e 4 mission is just beginning to explore this hidden side, in the video “Why Did China Send a Probe to the Far Side of the Moon?“, below:
Chang’e-4 is the next step in China’s lunar exploration mission and has achieved the first ever soft-landing on the far side of the moon. The mission is a breakthrough in China’s ability to explore outer space, in the video “Chang’e-4: A milestone in China’s space ambitions“, below:
The name Chang’e comes from a Chinese goddess who has lived on the moon for millennia, according to legend. For better understanding of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, please refer to the excerpt from wikipedia, in italics, below:
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP; Chinese: 中国探月; pinyin: Zhōngguó Tànyuè), also known as the Chang’e Project (Chinese: 嫦娥工程; pinyin: Cháng’é Gōngchéng) after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, is an ongoing series of robotic Moon missions by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The program incorporates lunarorbiters, landers, rovers and sample return spacecraft, launched using Long March rockets. Launches and flights are monitored by a Telemetry, Tracking, and Command (TT&C) system, which uses 50-metre (160-foot) radio antennas in Beijing and 40-metre (130-foot) antennas in Kunming, Shanghai, and Ürümqi to form a 3,000-kilometre (1,900-mile) VLBIantenna. A proprietary ground application system is responsible for downlink data reception.
Ouyang Ziyuan, a geologist and chemical cosmologist, was among the first to advocate the exploitation not only of known lunar reserves of metals such as titanium, but also of helium-3, an ideal fuel for future nuclear fusion power plants. He currently serves as the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Another scientist, Sun Jiadong, was assigned as the general designer, while scientist Sun Zezhou was assigned as the deputy general designer. The leading program manager is Luan Enjie.
The first spacecraft of the program, the Chang’e 1 lunar orbiter, was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 24 October 2007, having been delayed from the initial planned date of 17–19 April 2007. A second orbiter, Chang’e 2, was launched on 1 October 2010. Chang’e 3, which includes a lander and rover, was launched on 1 December 2013 and successfully soft-landed on the Moon on 14 December 2013. Chang’e 4, which includes a lander and rover, was launched on 7 December 2018. A sample return mission, Chang’e 5, is scheduled for December 2019.
As indicated by the official insignia, the shape of a calligraphic nascent lunar crescent with two human footprints at its center reminiscent of the Chinese character 月 for ″moon″, the ultimate objective of the program is to pave the way for a manned mission to the Moon. Such a mission may occur in 2025–2030.
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program is divided into three main operational phases, with each mission serving as a technology demonstrator in preparation for future missions.
The first phase entailed the launch of two lunar orbiters, and is now effectively complete.
- Chang’e 1, launched on 24 October 2007 aboard a Long March 3A rocket, scanned the entire Moon in unprecedented detail, generating a high definition 3D map that would provide a reference for future soft landings. The probe also mapped the abundance and distribution of various chemical elements on the lunar surface as part of an evaluation of potentially useful resources.
- Chang’e 2, launched on 1 October 2010 aboard a Long March 3C rocket, reached the Moon in under 5 days, compared to 12 days for Chang’e 1, and mapped the Moon in even greater detail. It then left lunar orbit and headed for the Earth–Sun L2 Lagrangian point in order to test the TT&C network. Having done that it completed a flyby of asteroid 4179 Toutatis on 13 December 2012, before heading into deep space to further test the TT&C network.
The second phase is ongoing, and incorporates spacecraft capable of soft-landing on the Moon and deploying lunar rovers.
- Chang’e 3, launched on 2 December 2013 aboard a Long March 3B rocket, landed on the Moon on 14 December 2013. It carried with it a 140 kg (310 lb) lunar rover named Yutu, which was designed to explore an area of 3 square kilometres (1.2 sq mi) during a 3-month mission. It was also supposed to conduct ultra-violet observations of galaxies, active galactic nuclei, variable stars, binaries, novae, quasars, and blazars, as well as the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s plasmasphere.
- Chang’e 4 was launched on 7 December 2018. Originally scheduled for 2015, was a back-up for Chang’e 3. However, as a result of the success of that mission, the configuration of Chang’e 4 was adjusted for the next mission. It landed on 3 January 2019 on the South Pole-Aitken Basin, on the far side of the Moon, and deployed the Yutu-2 rover.
- The program also includes two south pole landers: Chang’e P1 (2023) and Chang’e P2 (2026).
The final phase will entail a lunar sample return mission.
- Chang’e 5-T1 was launched on 23 October 2014. It was designed to test the lunar return spacecraft.
- Chang’e 5, expected to launch in December 2019 aboard a Long March 5 rocket, will build on the success of the previous missions, with a lander capable of collecting up to 2 kilograms (4.4 lb) of lunar samples and returning them to the Earth.
- Chang’e 6, expected to launch in 2020 aboard a Long March 5 rocket, will build on the success of the Chang’e 5 mission.
As of 2018, China was making preliminary studies for a crewed lunar landing mission in the 2030s, and possibly build an outpost near the lunar south pole.
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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