Lu­nar ex­pert hope­ful ‘new era’ open­ing

Cru­cial ob­ser­va­tions ex­pected as China ven­tures to far side of moon

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHAO LEI [email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

China’s lu­nar ex­plo­ration pro­grams will con­tinue to be cru­cial to the in­ter­na­tional astronomy com­mu­nity, as as­tro­nom­i­cal ob­ser­va­tions are re­layed from the moon’s sur­face, a lead­ing fig­ure in lu­nar re­search said.

Steve Durst, found­ing di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Lu­nar Ob­ser­va­tory As­so­ci­a­tion, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion in Hawaii, noted on Fri­day on the side­lines of the Galaxy Fo­rum 2018 in Bei­jing that there is cur­rently only one space­craft op­er­at­ing on the moon — China’s Chang’e 3 ro­botic probe — and its ul­tra­vi­o­let tele­scope is still func­tion­ing.

He de­scribed the tele­scope as “pi­o­neer­ing” — the first long-term ob­ser­va­tory on the lu­nar sur­face — and it has opened a “new fron­tier for astronomy”.

Chi­nese sci­en­tists have said that Chang’e 3’s tele­scope con­tin­ues mak­ing ob­ser­va­tions and sur­veys and trans­mits data back to ground control. Its most no­table sci­en­tific con­tri­bu­tion has been to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about the wa­ter con­tent in the lu­nar ex­o­sphere, they said.

Durst said at the Global Space Ex­plo­ration Con­fer­ence in Bei­jing in June last year that the power source for the Chang’e 3’s lan­der “could last for 30 years”, which means the as­set will be able to serve as­tro­nom­i­cal pur­poses for a long time.

Talk­ing about fu­ture ob­ser­va­tions from the moon, Durst said on Fri­day that China’s Chang’e 4 mis­sion will con­tinue with moon­based astronomy us­ing the Nether­lands-China low-fre­quency ex­plorer mounted on the Que­qiao re­lay satel­lite, as well as other equip­ment car­ried by the Chang’e 4 probe it­self.

He said there has never been a mis­sion to the far side of the moon be­fore Chang’e 4, and that sci­en­tists around the world have craved op­por­tu­ni­ties to make ob­ser­va­tions from there.

“We are very hope­ful that the Chang’e 4 will open up a new era in astronomy,” he said. “China is lead­ing the way in lu­nar astronomy. There are many peo­ple in the US, in­clud­ing some at NASA, who would like to co­op­er­ate with China in this re­gard. There are many oth­ers who are im­pressed by the ac­com­plish­ments of China in lu­nar astronomy and want to par­tic­i­pate.”

China started send­ing ro­botic probes to the moon in 2007 and has car­ried out sev­eral lu­nar mis­sions. It landed the Chang’e 3 probe, which car­ried the first Chi­nese lu­nar rover, on the moon in De­cem­ber 2013. The Chang’e 3 mis­sion marked the first soft-land­ing by a man-made space­craft on the moon in nearly four decades.

China launched the Que­qiao re­lay satel­lite into space in May, the first step in the Chang’e 4 mis­sion to the moon’s far side.

The next step in China’s cur­rent lu­nar ex­plo­ration agenda, the Chang’e 5 mis­sion, is set to take place in 2019 and will put a rover on the lu­nar sur­face to take sam­ples and then bring them back to Earth.

Yang Li­wei, the first Chi­nese as­tro­naut to en­ter space and for­mer di­rec­tor of the China Manned Space Agency, said at Fri­day’s fo­rum that prepa­ra­tion work for the Chang’e 5 mis­sion is “steadily ad­vanc­ing” and the re-en­try and re­turn test, which is cru­cial for Chang’e 5, was com­pleted suc­cess­fully.

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