China wants to go where no one has gone before: the other side of the moon.
A rocket carrying the lunar sander Chang'e-4 started on Saturday at 2:23 local time from Xichang satellite launch center in southern China. (In the United States, it was still Friday afternoon). The Chinese authorities did not send the launch, but an unofficial livestream recorded near the site showed the rocket's rise from the launch pad until its flames looked like a bright star in the dark skies of the area.
The target has not yet been announced ̵
What is Chang & # 39; e-4?
Chang & # 39; e-4 consists of two main parts: the main country with a weight of about 2,400 pounds and a 300-pound rover. By comparison, NASA's Opportunity Rover weighs about 400 pounds on Mars, and the Curiosity Rover is much larger at 2,000 pounds.
The spacecraft is largely a clone of Chang & # 39; e-3, which landed on the moon in 2013. In fact, Chang & # 39; e-4 was built as a backup if the first attempt failed. With success – the first soft landing of a spacecraft on the moon since 1976 – the Chinese equipped Chang'e-4 with other instruments and decided to send them to another location.
A popular run by the Communist Party News Outlet, Global Times, released images of the Long March missile that Chang & # 39; e-4 will carry on Friday before the planned launch:
Where does Chang & # 39; e go -4?
The rover is in the Von Kármán Crater is the 110-kilometer-wide crater. It is on the other side of the moon, always pointing away from the earth. (The moon is what planetary scientists call "tidal locked" for the Earth's rotation, that is, its rotation period – the day – is the same as the time it takes to orbit around the Earth.)
The Crater is located in an area known as the South Pole Aitken Basin, a gigantic 1,600-mile wide crater at the bottom of the Moon whose mineralogy differs from other locations. This may reflect materials from inside the Moon caused by the impact of the pool.
The opposite side is considerably more mountainous than the near side for reasons that have not yet been understood.
What will Chang do? e 4 trial?
Rovers and lander instruments include cameras, ground radar, and spectrometers, which can be used to determine the composition of rock and dirt in the environment. And China's space agency has been working with other countries. An instrument was developed at Kiel University in Germany. another was provided by the Swedish Institute for Space Physics.
The instruments examine the structure of the rocks below the spacecraft and investigate the effects of the solar wind on the lunar surface. Chang & #; e-4 will also test the ability to make radio astronomical observations from the other side of the moon, without the effects of noise and interference from Earth.
According to Xinhua News Agency, Chang & # 39; e-4 is also doing a fascinating biological experiment to see if plant seeds sprout and silkworm eggs hatch in the moon's low gravity.
How will the spacecraft communicate with the Earth?
Because the moon is blocking radio signals from our planet, the Chinese are launching a satellite called Queqiao in May. It's high above the other side of the moon and will relay messages between Earth and the Chang'e-4 lander.
When will Chang & # 39; e-4 land on the moon?
China's space agency has not announced a landing date, although some expect this to be the case first week of January, when the sun shines across the moon, an important consideration because Chang & # 39; s-4 is solar powered.
Zhang Xiaoping, associate professor of the Space Science Institute / Lunar and Planetary The Science Laboratory of the University of Macao said that the spacecraft would follow the trajectory of Chang'e-3. That is, it would arrive in three to five days and then orbit the moon for several days (13 in the case of Chang & # 39; e-3) while preparing for the landing, he said.
Wait, I thought on the other side The moon was dark.
The other side is not always dark.
The first new moon of 2019 is the 6th of January. Then you can not see the moon, because the dark side – the side that is in there shadow from the sun – is facing the earth. And when the near side of the moon is dark, the other side is flooded in bright sunshine.
Why is China so secretive about all this?
Chinese officials have spoken publicly about Chang'e-4, but their interactions with journalists are more closely related to the carefully managed strategy of the Soviet program during the Cold War than to the more open public relations work of NASA and many other space agencies. In this way, the Chinese, like the Soviets, could boast about the successes and play down failures.
What does Chang & # 39; s mean?
In Chinese mythology, Chang & # 39; s is the goddess of the moon. Other missions were named after her.
Chang & # 39; e-1 and 2 went into orbit around the moon, but did not land. Chang & # 39; e-1 was launched in 2007. Chang'e-2 followed in 2010.
The next step in China's lunar program is for the spaceship Chang'e-5 to land on the Moon and then return rock samples for further study on Earth.
Chang & # 39; e-5 was due to leave for the Moon before Chang'e-4, but a failure of the great Chinese rocket had to launch the mission into space until at least 2019
Who is still planning to go to the moon? go?
Next year, the Indian government plans to set up a mission, Chandrayaan-2, which includes an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. SpaceIL, an Israeli team that has been a finalist in the Google Lunar X Prize, also plans to send a robot lander to the moon early next year, despite the $ 20 million price tag.
NASA announced last week that nine companies are fighting for robotic missions to bring scientific experiments to the moon. The space agency said the first could go as early as 2019, but most companies said they would not be ready until 2021.
Jim Bridenstine, the NASA Administrator, praised the Chang & # 4; s mission as exciting and at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen in October he talked about a possible collaboration with the Chinese Space Agency. Federal laws limit NASA's interaction with the Chinese.