Sci­en­tists chilled out on far side of moon

Shanghai Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

THE Chang’e-4 probe, which has made the first soft land­ing on the far side of the moon, will al­low sci­en­tists to ac­cu­rately mea­sure tem­per­a­tures.

Sci­en­tists es­ti­mate that the high­est tem­per­a­ture dur­ing the day might reach 127 de­grees Cel­sius, while the low­est at night could fall to mi­nus 183 de­grees.

In 2013, China launched Chang’e-3, the coun­try’s first space­craft to soft-land on the moon.

“It was a suc­cess, but Chang’e-3 was de­signed ac­cord­ing to for­eign tem­per­a­ture data,” said Zhang He, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Chang’e-4 probe project, from the China Academy of Space Tech­nol­ogy (CAST). “With­out our own data about lu­nar tem­per­a­tures, we don’t know how cold a lu­nar night can ac­tu­ally be.

“Chang’e-4 will mea­sure the tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ences be­tween the day and night on the moon, help­ing sci­en­tists es­ti­mate the prop­er­ties of the lu­nar soil.”

Tan Mei, a con­sul­tant for the probe from CAST, said Chang’e-4 will switch to a “sleep mode” dur­ing the lu­nar night due to the lack of so­lar power, and rely on the ra­dioiso­tope heat source, a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Chi­nese and Rus­sian sci­en­tists, to keep warm.

“We need to trans­form heat into power to run the ther­mom­e­try to mea­sure the tem­per­a­tures of the lu­nar sur­face at night,” Tan said.

The lan­der is equipped with dozens of tem­per­a­ture data col­lec­tors, and the data they col­lect at night will be trans­mit­ted after the probe is wak­ened dur­ing the moon’s day­time, said Li Fei, a de­signer of the lan­der from CAST.

Sun Zezhou, the chief de­signer of the Chang’e-4 probe from CAST, said the probe will get first-hand data by di­rectly mea­sur­ing the tem­per­a­tures of the lu­nar soil, the probe and its key in­te­rior equip­ment dur­ing the lu­nar night.

Used for the first time in a Chi­nese space­craft, the iso­tope ther­mo­elec­tric gen­er­a­tion tech­nol­ogy on Chang’e-4 is a pro­to­type for fu­ture deep-space ex­plo­rations, Sun said.

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


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