China’s lu­nar mis­sion lauded

Chang’e-4, Yutu II take pho­tos of each other on moon’s far side

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Xie Went­ing and Fan Lingzhi

At 4:47 pm Fri­day, pho­tos of two five-star red flags on China’s lu­nar lan­der and rover flashed on a screen at Bei­jing Aero­space Con­trol Cen­ter.

The im­ages from the far side of the moon were eye­catch­ing and in­spir­ing as they mark a suc­cess for the coun­try’s Chang’e-4 lu­nar probe mis­sion and are a new ac­com­plish­ment in man’s quest to know the earth’s satel­lite bet­ter.

China Na­tional Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (CNSA) said on Fri­day that the lan­der Chang’e-4 and lu­nar rover Yutu II took pho­tos of each other on the far side of the moon Fri­day af­ter­noon and trans­mit­ted clear im­ages to the ground, mark­ing a com­plete suc­cess for the coun­try’s lu­nar mis­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to the CNSA, the trans­mis­sion took place with the help of Que­qiao re­lay satel­lite. The in­ter­na­tional pay­loads are op­er­at­ing smoothly and data is be­ing trans­mit­ted ef­fec­tively.

Huang Jun, a pro­fes­sor at the School of Aero­nau­tic Sci­ence and En­gi­neer­ing at Bei­hang Uni­ver­sity, told the Global Times on Fri­day that send­ing im­ages from the other side of the moon is more difficult

be­cause trans­mit­ting sig­nals is harder.

Chang’e-4 probe made its first-ever soft land­ing on the far side of the moon on Jan­uary 3.

Over nine days, the probe has com­pleted a se­ries of pro­ce­dures in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing an in­de­pen­dent data trans­mis­sion link with Que­qiao, start­ing the pay­load, de­tach­ing the rover from the lan­der, “noon nap” and wak­ing up of the rover as well as tak­ing pho­to­graphs of each other.

After this task, the mis­sion will start sci­en­tific ex­plo­ration and con­tinue to study the lu­nar sur­face.

CNSA re­vealed that sci­en­tists have de­signed the route of the rover keep­ing in mind the sur­round­ing ter­rain cap­tured by a nav­i­ga­tion cam­era and then used Que­qiao to send out the pho­to­graph or­der.

The panoramic cam­era of the rover clicked the lan­der, which took a pic­ture of Yutu II with its to­po­graphic cam­era. Both im­ages were pro­cessed on the earth.

Pei Zhaoyu, deputy direc­tor of the Lu­nar Ex­plo­ration and Space Pro­gram Cen­ter of CNSA, ex­plained to me­dia that “the lan­der’s side with the red flag faces the equa­tor so the il­lu­mi­na­tion is good.

“When the rover de­tached from the lan­der, it faced the South Pole,” Pei said.

Jiao Weixin, a space sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity, told the Global Times on Fri­day that the rover’s cam­era is mainly used to ob­serve the moon from a short dis­tance and avoid ob­sta­cles.

“The main sig­nif­i­cance of shoot­ing each other is to mark the oc­ca­sion,” he said.

On De­cem­ber 15, 2013, rover Yutu and lan­der Chang’e-3 also pho­tographed each other on the near side of the moon.

In­ter­na­tional ex­changes

CNSA said that be­fore the start of Chang’e-4 mis­sion in De­cem­ber, the ad­min­is­tra­tion had “close com­mu­ni­ca­tion” with US’ Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA) to dis­cuss the use of its LRO satel­lite to ob­serve the land­ing for sci­en­tific pur­poses.

The US said it would pro­vide or­bital data of the LRO to the Chi­nese team, while the Chi­nese side in­formed the US about the planned site and time of the lu­nar probe’s land­ing. Both sides ex­pected co­op­er­a­tion to bear more sci­en­tific achieve­ments.

Jiao told the Global Times that the US lu­nar ex­plo­ration or­biter took pho­tos of the land­ing of Chang’e-3.

The pic­ture shows our land­ing spot is very close to the me­teor crater, “which means we used hover tech­nol­ogy that suc­cess­fully dodged the obstacle,” said Jiao.

Ex­perts noted that the suc­cess­ful mis­sion may lead to pos­si­bil­ity of greater China-US co­op­er­a­tion.

“The US sur­passes China in tech­nol­ogy, but its lu­nar ex­plo­ration task does not have a clear goal and faces con­tro­versy and pres­sure at home. On the con­trary, China is steadily march­ing to­ward its goal,” said Jiao.

“Lu­nar ex­plo­ration faces great tech­no­log­i­cal and eco­nomic chal­lenges, thus in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion is in­evitable: after all, it’s not Cold War era any­more,” said Jiao.

“Sci­ence has no bound­aries,” he noted.

Pho­tos: Cour­tesy of China Na­tional Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion

Pho­tos of lu­nar lan­der Chang’e-4 (above) and rover Yutu II taken by each other on the far side of the moon on Fri­day.

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