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15.01.2019

China's new lunar rover faces challenges on moon's far side

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China's second lunar rover Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2), which is also the first-ever rover to drive on the moon's far side, will face great challenges brought by complicated terrains in its future exploration, Chinese space experts said Monday.

The Chang'e-4 probe, including a lander and a rover, touched down on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3, with the rover driving onto the lunar surface late that night.

"From the images sent back from Chang'e-4, we can see the area surrounding the probe is dotted with craters of different sizes, and it's very difficult for the rover to drive in the region," Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the Chang'e-4 probe, said at a press conference of the State Council Information Office Monday.

"We'll try to find the relatively safe areas and make a reasonable plan for the route of the rover based on the images taken by it," Sun said.

The rover is capable of avoiding some obstacles. If there are obstacles in front of it, it can stop and plan a new route on its own. It can also climb some slopes and cross some rocks. "We haven't found any insurmountable obstacle in the region," Sun said.

He said the Chang'e-4 probe has achieved the expected landing precision. The telemetry information and images taken by a camera on the probe showed that the spacecraft effectively avoided obstacles during its descent.

The probe has started its scientific exploration, focusing on studying the terrains and landforms, lunar environment, and substances composition, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar program.

"This is the first-ever exploration on the surface of the far side of the moon. The scientific research will be innovative and influential both at home and abroad," Wu said.

Quelle: Xinhua
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China unveils follow-up lunar exploration missions

China will launch the Chang'e-5 probe by the end of this year to bring moon samples back to Earth, a senior official of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced Monday.

The Chang'e-4 mission realized the first-ever soft-landing on the far side of the moon, and its success has inaugurated the fourth phase of China's lunar exploration program.

"Experts are still discussing and verifying the feasibility of subsequent projects, but it's confirmed that there will be another three missions after Chang'e-5," said Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the CNSA, at a press conference of the State Council Information Office.

According to Wu, the Chang'e-6 mission will be designed to bring samples back from the South Pole of the moon.

The Chang'e-7 mission will carry out comprehensive surveys around the South Pole, including studying terrain and landform, physical composition as well as the space environment in the region.

The Chang'e-8 mission, in addition to scientific surveys and experiments, will test key technologies to lay the groundwork for the construction of a science and research base on the moon.

Quelle: Xinhua

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Interview: China leads in space exploration, says scientist

China is the global leader in space exploration, a Cuban geophysicist and science popularizer has said.

The landing of the Chang'e-4 probe on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3 is an important milestone in the exploration of the Earth's natural satellite, Bruno Henriquez told Xinhua in an interview.

"It is something very significant, because it is the first time that there is a soft landing on the far side of the moon, which can be explored in site and not from the lunar orbit," he said.

Russian, U.S., Japanese and Indian spacecrafts had explored that part of the moon from the lunar orbit, but none have landed there before.

Henriquez also praised the fact that the Chinese probe landed on the moon's Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitken basin, and China's excellent deployment of the Yutu remote-controlled vehicle.

"The Chinese are today on top in terms of outer space exploration, not only in launching spacecraft, but also in their approach to the space program and everything they have developed on land to support it," Henriquez said.

The science fiction writer and former researcher at Cuba's Institute of Geophysics and Astronomy believes that Western mainstream media remains an outdated narrative that claims China lags behind the United States in space.

"They have accomplished many things, such as the first quantum communication satellites. They have the largest radio telescope on earth of the spherical reflector type, very similar to the one at Arecibo (Observatory) in Puerto Rico," he said.

China's scientific achievements have motivated Henriquez to create a collection of popular science books about everything related to space exploration, including the development of rocketry, the number of manned space flights, China's taikonauts and new uses for satellites.

"It is an attempt to show that China has a very intense policy of scientific development, of which the space program is just one facet," Henriquez said.

Henriquez is about to release a book on China's successful space program, which highlights China's development of its own space technology, remote sensing, remote control and autonomous exploration robots.

Quelle: Xinhua
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Watch a Chinese probe land on the far side of the Moon

On January 2nd, China became the first country to land a spacecraft on the Moon’s far side (not the dark side) when its Chang’e-4 probe gently touched down the surface. Now, China’s space agency has released footage of the landing.

The short video shows the robotic lander flying over the surface of the moon before abruptly tilting to descend (hovering at one point), before safely touching down in its new home, the Von Kármán crater. There, the lander released a rover, Yutu-2, which will explore the area around the lander.

The Chang’e-4 probe is China National Space Administration part of a series of missions designed to explore the surface of the moon, which started in 2007 with the Chang’e-1 orbiter, and was followed in 2010 by the Chang’e-2 orbiter, and the Chang’e-3 lander, which successfully touched down on the near side of the moon in 2013. A fifth mission, which is designed to land on the surface and return samples to Earth, is slated for the end of the year.

Quelle: The Verge

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Can China grow a flower on the moon? The countdown begins

Chinese space agency to broadcast experiment that ‘could pave the way for human life in outer space’
change4-flower
In the 2015 blockbuster The Martian, Matt Damon plays an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars and survives by growing potatoes, producing enough food to last months.

China’s lunar mission could bring that piece of science fiction a step closer to reality if it succeeds in growing the first flower on the moon in less than a hundred days’ time, an experiment that the China National Space Administration said it would soon broadcast.

When the Chang’e 4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon on January 3, its cargo included an airtight container known as a “moon surface micro-ecological circle”.

At 18cm high and 16cm in diameter, the aluminium alloy cylinder contains silkworm eggs and seeds for potatoes and a kind of cress.

It weighs only 3kg but cost more than 10 million yuan (about US$1.5 million) – the internal camera alone cost 600,000 yuan.

If all goes well, both plants will root and sprout in the container, producing the first flower on the surface of the moon towards the end of a 100-day experimental period, according to the space agency.

Meanwhile, the silkworm eggs will also complete the full life cycle, from hatching to turning into moths.

 
 

 

The plants would not be the first flowers grown in space though – on January 16, 2016, Nasa shared photographs of a zinnia in bloom in a plant system aboard the International Space Station, orbiting about 300km above the Earth.

Cultivating the plants won’t be easy – temperatures on the moon’s surface can go over 100 degrees Celsius (202 degrees Fahrenheit) in the day and drop to minus 100 degrees at night. Radiation from the sun and the lower gravity will also pose problems.

Professor Xie Gengxin, the Chinese scientist in charge of the lunar plant experiment, said that if successful, the project would signal that China was catching up in space exploration, state-run Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Xie said it would lay the foundation for humans to live in outer space.

Xie said the team had designed the container to maintain a temperature of between 1 and 30 degrees, allow in natural light and feed the plants with water and a nutrient solution.

The silkworms would consume the oxygen released by the plants, emit carbon dioxide and fertilise the plants with their dung, he said.

Xie said a similar experiment would be conducted on Earth for comparison.

Quelle: South China Morning Post

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China Focus: Moon sees first cotton-seed sprout

One of the cotton seeds carried to the moon by China's Chang'e-4 probe is the first ever to sprout on the moon, according to scientists of a mini biosphere experiment Tuesday.

After making the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, China's Chang'e-4 mission pioneered the first mini biosphere experiment on the moon.

Professor Xie Gengxin, of Chongqing University and chief designer of the experiment, said a canister installed on the lander of the Chang'e-4 probe contained the seeds of cotton, rapeseed, potato and Arabidopsis, as well as eggs of the fruit fly and some yeast, to form a simple mini biosphere.

Images sent by the probe showed that a cotton sprout had started to grow, though no other plants were found growing.

The cylinder canister, made from special aluminum alloy materials, is 198 mm tall, with a diameter of 173 mm and a weight of 2.6 kg. It also holds water, soil, air, two small cameras and a heat control system, Xie said.

More than 170 pictures have been taken by the cameras and sent back to Earth, according to the team.

Why were these species chosen?

Xie said potatoes could be a major source of food for future space travelers. The growth period of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, is short and easy to observe. Yeast could play a role in regulating carbon dioxide and oxygen in the mini biosphere, and the fruit fly would be a consumer of the photosynthesis process.

Researchers used biological technology to render the seeds and eggs dormant during the two months when the probe went through the final checks in the launch center and journey of more than 20 days through space.

After Chang'e-4 landed on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3, the ground control center instructed the probe to water the plants to start the growing process. A tube directs natural light on the surface of the moon into the canister to allow the plants to grow.

The Chang'e-4 probe entered a "sleep mode" on Sunday as the first lunar night after the probe's landing fell. The temperature could drop as low as about minus 170 degrees centigrade.

"Life in the canister would not survive the lunar night," Xie said.

The experiment has ended. The organisms will gradually decompose in the totally enclosed canister, and will not affect the lunar environment, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Although astronauts have cultivated plants on the International Space Station, and rice and Arabidopsis were grown on China's Tiangong-2 space lab, those experiments were conducted in low-Earth orbit, at an altitude of about 400 km. The environment on the moon, 380,000 kilometers from Earth, is more complex.

"We had no such experience before. And we could not simulate the lunar environment, such as microgravity and cosmic radiation, on Earth," Xie said.

Researchers expect the experiment may help acquire knowledge for building a lunar base and long-term residence on the moon.

Xie said the experiment was aimed at inspiring young people's enthusiasm for space exploration, and popularizing science such as photosynthesis.

The public, especially young people, have been encouraged to participate in the Chang'e-4 mission. The CNSA, the Ministry of Education, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the China Association for Science and Technology and other organizations launched a contest among students across China in 2015, collecting ideas on the design of the payloads. The "lunar mini biosphere" experiment was selected from more than 250 submissions.

Quelle: Xinhua
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China's Moon mission sees first seeds sprout

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Cotton sprouts seen close-up under a protective cover on board the Moon lander

Seeds taken up to the Moon by China's Chang'e-4 mission have sprouted, says China National Space Administration.

It marks the first time any biological matter has grown on the Moon, and is being seen as a significant step towards long-term space exploration.

The Chang'e 4 is the first mission to land on and explore the Moon's far side, facing away from Earth.

It touched down on 3 January, carrying instruments to analyse the region's geology.

Plants have been grown on the International Space Station before but never on the Moon.

The ability to grow plants on the Moon will be integral for long-term space missions, like a trip to Mars which would take about two-and-a-half years.

It would mean that astronauts could potentially harvest their own food in space, reducing the need to come back down to Earth to resupply.

The Chinese Moon lander was carrying among its cargo soil containing cotton and potato seeds, yeast and fruit fly eggs.

The plants are in a sealed container on board the lander. The crops will try to form a mini biosphere - an artificial, self-sustaining environment.

 

The lunar mini biosphere experiment on the Chang'e-4 lander is designed to test photosynthesis and respiration - processes in living organisms that result in the production of energy. The whole experiment is contained within an 18cm tall, 3kg canister that was designed by 28 Chinese universities.

The organisms inside have a supply of air, water and nutrients to help them grow. But one of the challenges, say Chinese scientists, is to keep the temperature favourable for growth when conditions on the Moon swing wildly between -173C and 100C or more.

They also have to control the humidity and nutrients. Some have raised the question of whether the experiment risks "contaminating" the Moon, but scientists generally think this is of little concern. And it's worth reiterating that there are already nearly 100 bags of human waste on the Moon left behind by the Apollo astronauts.

Presentational grey line

On Tuesday, Chinese state media said the cotton seeds had now grown buds.

The ruling Communist Party's official mouthpiece the People's Daily tweeted an image of the sprouted seed, saying it marked "the completion of humankind's first biological experiment on the Moon".

Fred Watson, Australian Astronomical Observatory's astronomer-at-large, told the BBC the development was "good news".

"It suggests that there might not be insurmountable problems for astronauts in future trying to grow their own crops on the moon in a controlled environment."

"I think there's certainly a great deal of interest in using the Moon as staging post, particularly for flights to Mars, because it's relatively near the Earth," Mr Watson said.

Prof Xie Gengxin, the experiment's chief designer, was quoted as saying in the South China Morning Post: "We have given consideration to future survival in space.

"Learning about these plants' growth in a low-gravity environment would allow us to lay the foundation for our future establishment of space base."

He said cotton could eventually be used for clothing while the potatoes could be a food source for astronauts and the rapeseed for oil.

China's Xinhua news agency said that the seeds were rendered dormant using "biological technology" during the 20-day journey from Earth to the Moon.

They only began growing once ground control centre sent a command to the probe to water the seeds.

Xinhua said the probe had taken about 170 pictures so far which have been sent back to Earth.

Quelle: BBC

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Update: 19.01.2019

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China Tried To Grow Cotton On The Moon, But It Didn't Work

It turned out to be the little sprout that couldn't.

The vaunted cotton seeds that on Tuesday China said had defied the odds to sprout on the moon — albeit inside a controlled environment — have died.

China's state-run Xinhua News Agency announced the news, simply stating: "The experiment has ended."

But China's greater Chang'e-4 mission goes on. Earlier this month, China announced it had become the first country to land a probe on the far side of the moon, in what is largely a scientific mission and is also preparation for sending Chinese astronauts to the moon.

Tucked aboard the spacecraft were seeds within a biosphere equipped with some of the comforts of home: water, soil, air and a heat control system, Chinese researchers said. Once the probe touched down, ground control instructed the probe to water the seeds.

And on Tuesday Chongqing University announced that photographs of tender cotton shoots revealed "the first green leaf growing on the moon in human history was successfully realized."

A claim, which while perhaps technically correct, may not be precise.

"China has grown the first leaf in a specially designed chamber that was placed on the moon," Melanie J. Correll, associate professor at the University of Florida's Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department told NPR in an email. "[The] plants were not exposed to the extreme environments of the moon."

But still the conditions proved too harsh.

Xie Gengxin of Chongqing University, who designed the experiment, told CNN that the temperature inside the biosphere was bouncing around so much that no life could be sustained and the control team remotely shut down power inside.

In all, Chongqing University said it sent six organisms to the moon, including potato seeds, yeast and fruit flies.

But Xie told CNN that the temperature swings were so extreme they likely killed everything.

The Xinhua news agency quoted China's National Space Administration as saying, "the organisms will gradually decompose in the totally enclosed canister."

Despite their reaching an untimely end, Simon Gilroy, Professor of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told NPR that the seeds are still germinating big hopes.

"If we want to live longer-term off the surface of the Earth, could we take along the biology that we use to keep us alive?" he said. "It's fantastic to be able to sort of say, yeah, it's a first tiny step down that path."

Yet the answer to a key question remains elusive, Gilroy said: "How do you become a good gardener in space?"

"Trying to move the Earth's environment to the moon is the hardest thing," Gilroy said. "You need water, light, the temperature has to be right and you have to provide the nutrients you normally get from the soil."

Correll said as scientists and engineers work on improving the technology needed to grow plants remotely, the plants themselves may also hold the answer. "These types of studies are critical in order to develop new plants designed for these challenging environments and to grow them to support long-term human space exploration," Correll said.

Quelle: npr

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Update: 20.01.2019

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Nasa says it will work with Chinese space agency on lunar landing research

 
  • Discussions have been held with China National Space Administration and cooperation will be ‘transparent, reciprocal and mutually beneficial’
  • Nasa scientists have been exchanging data with Chinese team since Chang’e 4 soft landing, and its lunar orbiter will take pictures of the site

Nasa has confirmed that it will work with its Chinese counterpart on lunar landing research, saying the cooperation would be “transparent, reciprocal and mutually beneficial”.

In a statement on Friday, Nasa said it had held discussions with the China National Space Administration “to explore the possibility of observing a signature of the landing plume” of the Chinese lunar lander Chang’e 4, using its own spacecraft’s instruments.

The Chang’e 4 made a historic soft landing on the far side of the moon on January 3.

Nasa’s statement confirmed a similar announcement by Wu Yanhua, deputy chief commander of the China Lunar Exploration Programme, that US space scientists had sought permission to use its spacecraft and relay satellite to help them plan a future mission.

Nasa said its scientists had been exchanging, collecting and analysing data with the Chinese team since the soft landing, and its lunar orbiter was expected to pass over and take pictures of the landing site on January 31.

The cooperation comes against the backdrop of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, with Chinese technology products under intense scrutiny in the United States amid national security concerns. That scrutiny of Chinese products – from Huawei’s telecoms equipment to Hikvision surveillance cameras – and pressure on Beijing to scrap its state-driven “Made in China 2025” industrial strategy has put a spotlight on their growing technology rivalry.

The dispute was further complicated last month with the arrest in Canada of Huawei executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou at the request of the US over alleged Iran sanctions violations.

Although Nasa was banned from bilateral cooperation with China in 2011, it can do so with congressional approval, and the statement suggested the collaboration on lunar landing research had already been cleared by the administration of President Donald Trump and Congress.

The US space agency emphasised that the cooperation would be “transparent”. “All Nasa data associated with this activity are publicly available,” the statement said.

The two sides also agreed that any significant findings resulting from the activity would be shared with the global research community at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space meeting in Vienna next month.

The research is important for Nasa’s robotic lunar surface missions, which will begin as early as next year. The US campaign to return to the moon – the first in 40 years – has been brought forward by Trump, who has also directed collaboration with international and commercial partners.

China, which has long been excluded from the international space station and many other outer space joint research projects, saw it as a “great opportunity”.

“This time, we have such a great opportunity … we are willing to work with them,” Wu Weiren, chief scientist of the lunar programme, told state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday.

He said the Nasa scientists made the cooperation request at an international meeting a few years ago, also asking China to extend the lifespan of its Queqiao relay satellite and to allow a US beacon device to be placed on the Chang’e 4, saying it would help the US plan its own lunar landing strategy.

According to Chinese state media, the United States is among half a dozen countries that have collaborated with China on the lunar project. Other partners include Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

Quelle: South China Morning Post

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NASA and China collaborate on Moon exploration

The space agencies of the United States and China are coordinating efforts on Moon exploration, NASA said Friday, as it navigates a strict legal framework aimed at protecting national security and preventing technology transfer to China.

"With the required approval from Congress, NASA has been in discussions with China to explore the possibility of observing a signature of the landing plume of their lunar lander, Chang'e 4, using our @NASAMoon spacecraft's instrument," NASA's associate administrator for the science mission directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, wrote on Twitter.

Zurbuchen's tweet confirmed a similar statement made Monday by the deputy chief commander of China Lunar Exploration Program, Wu Yanhua.

NASA shared information from a US satellite while China told the Americans about the latitude, longitude and time of the landing "in a timely manner," he said.

The hope was that NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) could observe the historic touchdown of the Chinese lander on January 3.

NASA provided the planned orbit path of LRO to China, but it turned out the spacecraft was not in the right place at the right time.

"For a number of reasons, NASA was not able to phase LRO's orbit to be at the optimal location during the landing, however NASA was still interested in possibly detecting the plume well after the landing," the agency said in a statement.

"Science gathered about how lunar dust is ejected upwards during a spacecraft's landing could inform future missions and how they arrive on the lunar surface."

Such observations could help astronauts prepare for future missions to the Moon.

NASA's lunar orbiter will pass over the Chang'e 4 landing site on January 31 and will snap pictures, as it did for the Chang'e 3 in 2013.

The agency said significant findings resulting from the cooperation would be shared with the global research community in February at a United Nations space gathering in Austria.

- Risk of 'technology transfer' -

Since 2011, the US Congress has barred NASA or the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from using federal funds "to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company."

Exceptions are possible, but NASA must convince Congress and the FBI that the activity would "pose no risk of resulting in the transfer of technology, data, or other information with national security or economic security implications to China or a Chinese-owned company."

The clause was inserted in a US spending bill after a wave of cyber-attacks that was traced to sources in China.

NASA said in its Friday statement that "all NASA data associated with this activity are publicly available," and that NASA's cooperation with China "is transparent, reciprocal and mutually beneficial."

Sino-US cooperation could extend beyond the current lunar project, according to Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's Lunar Exploration Program.

In an interview broadcast by state television CCTV on Sunday, he said NASA scientists had discussed a possible collaboration at an international conference "a few years ago," and that US scientists had asked to extend the lifespan of China's Queqiao relay satellite from three to five years to facilitate the planning of an American moon mission.

And why?

"Later, they said, feeling somewhat embarrassed, that they wanted to land on the far side of the moon too, so if we let (our relay satellite) operate longer they can also use it," he said.

The satellite in question aids in communications with a lander on the far side of the Moon.

NASA scientists had also discussed possibly placing a beacon on the Chang'e 4 probe, he added.

"If we put a beacon there, they also know where to land. I told them our Chang'e 4 can be used as a beacon for you in future," Wu said.

However the US restrictions "might be a much higher barrier to overcome" in ambitious cooperation projects such as a lunar research base that "might involve sharing of technological information," said Henry Hertzfeld, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Quelle; Franc24

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Update: 30.01.2019

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Chang'e-4 set for day 2 of lunar far side activities with sunrise over Von Kármán crater

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The Chang'e-4 spacecraft are expected to soon begin a second lunar day of activities in Von Kármán crater, ending a two-week hibernation following their historic lunar far side landing on January 3 this year.

The Chang'e-4 lander and rover have been in a sleep state since January 13 and 12 respectively in preparation for the approximately 14-Earth-day-long lunar nighttime, following their dramatic automated landing inside the 180 km diameter crater within the South Pole-Aitken basin.

The first day of activities had seen the deployment of Yutu-2, testing and calibrating of science payloads, the spacecraft imaging each other, the start and conclusion of a biosphere experiment, and the planning of exploration routes for the rover.

There have been no official updates from China regarding the mission for two weeks, but sunrise over the eastern edge of the crater began on January 28 according to Virtual Moon Atlas, suggesting that the Chang'e-4 craft will resume operations on or around the 29th, when the Sun will be higher in the sky to provide solar power to the spacecraft.

 

The Yutu-2 Chang'e-4 rover rolls across the surface

The spacecraft will have been protected from the extreme cold during the lunar night, when temperatures can reach as low as around minus 180 degrees Celsius (-292 F), by radioisotope heater units (RHU) with the lander also carrying a small radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) which will serve as a prototype for future deep space exploration missions.

China's first lunar rover, the 2013 Chang'e-3 mission's Yutu, travelled just 114 metres before encountering an issue to ended the rover's mobility. Improvements have been made to Yutu-2 which should boost its reliability and durability.

The Chang'e-4 lander, imaged by the Yutu-2 rover, on the far side of the Moon in January 2019.

 

 

The Chang'e-4 lander, imaged by the Yutu-2 rover, on the far side of the Moon in January 2019. CLEP/CNSA

NASA orbiter to image Chang'e-4

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is expected to take images of the Chang'e-4 spacecraft at its landing site in the Von Kármán crater on January 31 and also gather data about how lunar dust is ejected upwards during a spacecraft’s landing, in a rare instance of space cooperation between China and America.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) and NASA have agreed that any significant findings resulting from this coordination activity will be shared with the global research community at the 56th session of the Scientific and Technology Subcommittee meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space meeting in Vienna, Austria, February 11-22, 2019, the NASA blog post states.

Four views of the Chang'e-3 landing site from LRO from before the landing until Feb 2014.

 

 

Four views of the Chang'e-3 landing site from LRO from before the landing until Feb 2014. NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Chang'e-4 mission highlights

 

Chang'e-4 descent footage.

 

Chang'e-4 deploys Yutu-2 rover

The azimuth (top) and cylindrical views of the Chang'e-4 panorama released on January 11, 2019.

 

 

The azimuth (top) and cylindrical views of the Chang'e-4 panorama released on January 11, 2019. CLEP/CNSA

The Yutu-2 rover imaged by the Chang'e-4 lander in January 2019.

 

 

The Yutu-2 rover imaged by the Chang'e-4 lander in January 2019. CLEP/CNSA

An image returned from the Chang'e-4 mini biosphere experiment on the far side of the Moon on January 7, around 02:00 UTC.

 

 

An image returned from the Chang'e-4 mini biosphere experiment on the far side of the Moon on January 7, around 02:00 UTC. Chongqing University/CNS

Quelle: gbtimes

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Update: 31.01.2019

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Chang'e-4 finds moon's far side colder than expected during night

China's Chang'e-4 probe, having made the first-ever soft landing on moon's far side, found that the temperature of the lunar surface dropped to as low as minus 190 degrees centigrade, colder than expected.

This is the first time Chinese scientists have received first-hand data about the temperatures on the surface of the moon during the lunar night.

The rover and the lander of the Chang'e-4 probe have been awakened by sunlight after a long "sleep" during their first extremely cold night on the moon, the China National Space Administration announced on Thursday.

As a result of the tidal locking effect, the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, and the same side of the moon always faces Earth.

"According to the measurements of Chang'e-4, the temperature of the shallow layer of the lunar soil on the far side of the moon is lower than the data obtained by the U.S. Apollo mission on the near side of the moon," said Zhang He, executive director of the Chang'e-4 probe project, from the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).

"That's probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon. We still need more careful analysis," Zhang said.

A lunar day equals 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is the same length. The Chang'e-4 probe switched to dormant mode during the lunar night due to a lack of solar power.

Temperatures vary enormously between day and night on the moon. Previously, Chinese scientists had no data on exactly how cold it could be.

At the end of 2013, China launched Chang'e-3, the country's first spacecraft to soft-land on the moon. The scientific instruments on its lander are still operating after more than 60 lunar nights over the past five years.

"It was a success, but Chang'e-3 was designed according to foreign temperature data," said Zhang.

The measurement of the temperature changes between the day and night on the moon will help scientists estimate the properties of the lunar soil, said Zhang.

The rover and the lander carried a radioisotope heat source, which helped keep the probe warm during the lunar night.

The lander was also equipped with an isotope thermoelectric cell and dozens of temperature data collectors to measure the temperatures on the surface of the moon during the lunar night.

Used for the first time in a Chinese spacecraft, the isotope thermoelectric generation technology to transform heat into power on Chang'e-4 is a prototype for future deep-space exploration, said Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the Chang'e-4 probe from CAST.

NASA's Curiosity rover also adopts this power technology, freeing it from the sunshine, sand and dust restrictions that have affected its predecessors Opportunity and Spirit, he explained.

"It is a technology that we must master if we want to go to the moon's polar regions or farther than Jupiter into deep space, where solar power cannot be used as the primary power source," he said.

Quelle: Xinhua

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China's Chang'e-4 probe wakes up after first lunar night

The rover and the lander of the Chang'e-4 probe have been awakened by sunlight after a long "sleep" during the first extremely cold night on the moon, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced on Thursday.

The lander woke up at 8:39 p.m. Wednesday, and the rover, Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2), awoke at about 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, surviving their first lunar night after making the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, said CNSA.

China's Chang'e-4 probe, launched on Dec. 8 in 2018, landed on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3.

A lunar day equals 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is the same length. The Chang'e-4 probe switched to a dormant mode during the lunar night due to the lack of solar power.

Both the lander and the rover ended the dormant mode automatically according to the elevation angle of the sunlight. And the key instruments on the probe have started to work.

Currently, the rover is located about 18 meters northwest of the lander. Communication and data transmission between ground control and the probe via the relay satellite Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) are stable, said CNSA.

As a result of the tidal locking effect, the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, and it always faces Earth with the same side.

"The far side of the moon has unique features, and has never been explored on site, so Chang'e-4 might bring us breakthrough findings," said Zou Yongliao, director of the lunar and deep space exploration division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

During the first lunar day, the lander and the rover photographed each other, and a camera installed on the top of the lander took 360-degree panoramic photos on the surrounding of the probe.

"From the panorama, we could see the probe was surrounded by many small craters. It was really thrilling," said Li Chunlai, deputy director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China and commander-in-chief of the ground application system of Chang'e-4.

The lunar rover Yutu-2 will face considerable challenges brought by complicated terrain in its future exploration, said scientists.

The scientific tasks of the Chang'e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring neutron radiation and neutral atoms.

The Chang'e-4 mission embodies China's hope to combine human wisdom in space exploration, with four payloads developed by the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

Quelle: Xinhua

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Update: 6.02.2019

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First Look: Chang'e Lunar Landing Site

On Jan. 3, 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e 4 safely landed on the floor of the Moon’s Von Kármán crater (186 kilometer diameter, 116 miles). Four weeks later (Jan. 30, 2019), as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter approached the crater from the east, it rolled 70 degrees to the west to snap this spectacular view looking across the floor toward the west wall. Because LRO was 330 kilometers (205 miles) to the east of the landing site, the Chang'e 4 lander is only about two pixels across (bright spot between the two arrows), and the small rover is not detectable. The massive mountain range in the background is the west wall of Von Kármán crater, rising more than 3,000 meters (9,850 feet) above the floor.

01-m1303521387-lrmos1100p-v2w

Arrows indicate position of Chang'e 4 lander on the floor of Von Kármán crater. The sharp crater behind and to the left of the landing site is 3900 meters across (12,800 feet) and 600 meters (1,970 feet) deep. LROC NAC M1303521387LR
Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
02-m1303521387-lrmos-lander-enlarge-web
Area around lander enlarged by a factor of two relative to the native pixel scale, bright speck between two arrows is the lander. The large crater in the center (just right and below arrows) is about 440 meters (1,440 feet) across. LROC NAC M1303521387LR
Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Quelle: NASA
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Update; 13.02.2019
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China's Chang'e-4 probe switches back to dormant mode

The lander and the rover of the Chang'e-4 probe have been switched to dormant mode for the lunar night after working stably during the past lunar day, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced Wednesday.

The lander was switched to a dormant mode at 7:00 p.m. Monday as scheduled, and the rover, Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2), at 8:00 p.m., said the CNSA.

According to China's Lunar and Deep Space Exploration Center, the rover will be woken up on Feb. 28 and the lander on March 1.

The CNSA said that the Chang'e-4 probe worked stably during its second lunar day. The payloads on board including low-frequency radio astronomical instrument, neutron radiation detector, infrared imaging spectrometer and neural atomic detector have been operating smoothly as scheduled.

During its second Lunar day, a camera installed on the rover Yutu-2 took 360-degree panoramic photos on the lander.

Meanwhile, the lunar rover Yutu-2 has driven 120 meters on the far side of the moon, breaking the record of 114.8 meters made by its predecessor, Yutu, China's first rover to leave a trace on the lunar surface in late 2013.

China's Chang'e-4 probe, launched on Dec. 8, landed on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3.

A lunar day equals 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is the same length. The radioisotope heat source, a collaboration between Chinese and Russian scientists, will support the probe through the lunar night when the temperature falls.

The Chang'e-4 probe woke from its first lunar night on Jan. 31. According to the measurements of Chang'e-4, the temperature of the lunar surface dropped to as low as minus 190 degrees centigrade, colder than expected.

It is the first time Chinese scientists have received first-hand data about the temperatures on the surface of the moon during the lunar night.

Last Friday, the U.S. space agency NASA announced that its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) acquired a shot on the Chang'e-4 landing site the day after it did so on Jan. 30.

In the picture, the lander and rover of the Chang'e-4 probe are nestled among craters on the floor of the Von Karman crater. Shadows cast by the lander and rover are visible.

Quelle: Xinhua

 
 
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