China pre­pares mis­sion to land space­craft on moon’s far side

Sun.Star Pampanga - - TECHNEWS! -

Bwas EIJING (AP) — China pre­par­ing to launch a ground-break­ing mis­sion early Satur­day to soft-land a space­craft on the largely un­ex­plored far side of the moon, demon­strat­ing its grow­ing am­bi­tions as a space power to ri­val Rus­sia, the Euro­pean Union and U.S.

With its Chang’e 4 mis­sion, China hopes to be the first coun­try to ever suc­cess­fully un­der­take such a land­ing. The moon’s far side is also known as the dark side be­cause it faces away from Earth and re­mains com­par­a­tively un­known, with a dif­fer­ent com­po­si­tion from sites on the near side, where pre­vi­ous mis­sions have landed.

If suc­cess­ful, the mis­sion sched­uled to blast off aboard a Long March 3B rocket will pro­pel the Chi­nese space pro­gram to a lead­ing po­si­tion in one of the most im­por­tant ar­eas of lu­nar ex­plo­ration.

China landed its Yutu, or “Jade Rab­bit.” rover on the moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe there next year and have it re­turn to Earth with sam­ples — the first time that will have been done since 1976. A crewed lu­nar mis­sion is also un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

Chang’e 4 is also a lan­der­rover com­bi­na­tion and will ex­plore both above and be­low the lu­nar sur­face af­ter ar­riv­ing at the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Kar­man crater fol­low­ing a 27day jour­ney.

It will also per­form ra­dio-as­tro­nom­i­cal stud­ies that, be­cause the far side al­ways faces away from Earth, will be “free from in­ter­fer­ence from our planet’s iono­sphere, hu­man-made ra­dio fre­quen­cies and au­ro­ral ra­di­a­tion noise,” space in­dus­try ex­pert Leonard David wrote on the web­site Space.com.

It may also carry plant seeds and silk­worm eggs, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial Xinhua News Agency.

Chang’e is the god­dess of the moon in Chi­nese mythol­ogy.

China con­ducted its first crewed space mis­sion in 2003, mak­ing it only the third coun­try af­ter Rus­sia and the U.S. to do so. It has put a pair of space sta­tions into or­bit, one of which is still op­er­at­ing as a pre­cur­sor to a more than 60-ton sta­tion that is due to come on­line in 2022. The launch of a Mars rover is planned for the mid-2020s.

To fa­cil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween con­trollers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 mis­sion, China in May launched a re­lay satel­lite named Que­qiao, or “Mag­pie Bridge,” af­ter an an­cient Chi­nese folk tale.

China’s space pro­gram has ben­e­fited from co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia and Euro­pean na­tions, although it was ex­cluded from the 420-ton In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, mainly due to U.S. leg­is­la­tion bar­ring such co­op­er­a­tion amid con­cerns over its strong mil­i­tary con­nec­tions. Its pro­gram also suf­fered a rare set­back last year with the di­aled launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

China’s lat­est mis­sion closely fol­lows the touch­down of NASA’s In­Sight space­craft on Mars on Mon­day, at a site less than 400 miles (640 kilo­me­ters) from the Amer­i­can rover Cu­rios­ity, the only other work­ing ro­bot on Mars.

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