China rover to mea­sure lu­nar freez­ing night tem­per­a­ture

■ Sci­en­tists think that low­est lu­nar tem­per­a­ture at night could fall to mi­nus 183 de­grees Cel­sius

The Asian Age - - World - K. J. M. VARMA

China’s Chang’e- 4 lu­nar rover, which is ex­plor­ing the dark side of the moon, will mea­sure the freez­ing night tem­per­a­ture, sci­en­tists said on Sun­day.

Chang’e- 4, named after a Chi­nese moon god­dess and com­pris­ing a lan­der and a rover, touched down on the dark side of the moon on Jan­uary 3, the first- ever soft land­ing on the far side of the moon by any coun­try.

It was a gi­ant leap for cos­mic ex­plo­ration and a ma­jor boost to the Com­mu­nist na­tion’s quest to be­come a space su­per­power.

Since the moon’s rev­o­lu­tion cy­cle is the same as its ro­ta­tion cy­cle, the same side al­ways faces the Earth. The other face, most of which can­not be seen from the Earth, is called the far side or the “dark side” of the moon, not be­cause it is dark, but be­cause most of it is un­charted.

A lu­nar day equals 14 days on the Earth, and a lu­nar night is the same length. Tem­per­a­tures vary enor­mously be­tween day and night on the moon.

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 Cel­sius.

In 2013, China launched Chang’e- 3, the coun­try’s first space­craft to soft- land on the moon. The sci­en­tific in­stru­ments on its lan­der are still op­er­at­ing after more than 60 lu­nar nights in the past five years, state- run Xin­hua news agency re­ported.

“It was a suc­cess, but Chang’e- 3 was de­signed ac­cord­ing to for­eign tem­per­a­ture data,” Zhang He, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Chang’e- 4 probe project from the China Academy of Space Tech­nol­ogy ( CAST), told Xin­hua.

“With­out our own data about lu­nar tem­per­a­tures, we don’t know how cold a lu­nar night can ac­tu­ally be,” Zhang said.

“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,” she said.

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.

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