China science

China’s Chang’e 4 mission goals accomplished; first panorama photograph of far side of moon revealed

  • ‘Selfie’ marks giant leap for moon mission before information gathering begins
  • China and partners in US, Russia, Sweden, German and the Netherlands go to work
PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2019, 10:58pm

Chang’e 4, China’s lunar mission, was declared a success on Friday, the China National Space Agency said.

The lander and its rover, Yutu 2, took a picture of each other and sent them back to Earth via Queqiao, the relay satellite over the far side of the moon, to market the occasion.

Devices aboard the spacecraft which will carry out scientific research on the moon and monitor radio waves from across the cosmos began operations, while the data they have collected so far reached the control centre as intended, suggesting the mission has achieved its goals.

The moon mission’s cosmic “selfie” on Friday was preceded on Thursday by the first panorama photo of the moon’s far side. Chang’e 4 put the payloads supplied by China’s science partners to work that day. One of those partners is Nasa, the US space agency.

Nasa continued its long cooperation with the China National Space Agency even as Washington and Beijing went toe-to-toe over tariffs in a battle that has been on hold for nearly 50 days to allow diplomats to seek an agreement.

China and the United States have been discussing the Chang’e 4 mission since last June, according to China Youth Daily, the Communist’s Youth League’s newspaper.

Nasa provided data collected by its robotic spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched in 2009, for China to use, while China shared details of how it intended to put a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.

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Swedish scientists developed a device for the rover that detects “neutral” atoms, which have equal numbers of protons and electrons. It will study how the solar wind – streams of charged particles from the sun – behaves on the moon’s surface.

The first batch of data collected by the neutral atom detector will be sent back to the Earth in early February, according to the China National Space Agency.

As the rover carries the detector across the moon’s surface, allowing it to take measurements at many locations, researchers said its discoveries could help advance work towards a human return to the moon and perhaps plans for longer term settlement there.

“We could find clues to where the moon’s water comes from,” Martin Wieser, a scientist with the Swedish Institute of Space Physics who is in charge of the device, told state news agency Xinhua last week.

Moon lander tunes in to ancient signals from across universe

A neutron radiation detector developed by German scientists is also aboard the lander to assess the site at South Pole Aitken Basin, where the lander touched down last week.

Low-frequency radio wave receivers developed by the Netherlands are employed to allow mission controllers on Earth to measure radio emissions that may have started with the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago.

Russian scientific know-how was put to work with Chinese expertise as scientists develop a heating device to help the spacecraft endure the extreme temperatures of lunar night, which can be as low as minus 180 degrees Celsius.