Published: Thu, January 10, 2019
Science | By

Relay satellite Queqiao plays key role in exploring moon's far side

Relay satellite Queqiao plays key role in exploring moon's far side

While this is by no means the first time living organisms have been launched into space (see Ham and Enos the chimpanzees, the two tortoises that circled the moon and the Apollo moon missions for reference), this is the first time plants and animals have landed on the far side of the moon. But exactly how it influences this interaction is something Swedish scientists want to know - and for that reason, they want Yutu-2 to last as long as it can. In May, China launched Quaqiao, a satellite relay between Chang'e-4 and Earth. The rover, which was seen in early photos having just taken its first strides on the Moon, is shown moving farther away from the lander's camera.

Over the course of the next three months, the mission will study the ancient impact basin to learn more about the early Solar System and the origins of the Moon.

To promote public interest in space exploration, the China National Space Administration invited people to write down their wishes for lunar and space exploration, and the relay satellite carries the names of tens of thousands of participants and their messages.

The lunar far side never faces Earth because of tidal locking. With the moon touchdown, China is now positioned as a contender for exploration, communications and area commerce.

"The relay satellite communicates with Earth using radio waves". During the Chinese moon probe, Chang'e 4, submitted this week, the first close-up images of the far side of the moon, delivered to the Nasa space probe "New Horizons", an image of the celestial body Ultima Thule, and the more than six billion kilometers from earth. The spacecraft's instrument suite will allow Chang'e-4 to measure the mineral composition of the moon's far side.

Even if the experiments with the satellite prove that we can not feasibly conduct radio astronomy on the far side of the Moon, the mission is certain to yield valuable scientific information.

China has taken some very big steps in recent years and built up its space program to the point that it is considered a rival to those of Russian and the United States.

China landed a probe on the far facet of the moon on Thursday with remarkably little fanfare, but the feat is one big leap for a nation that's always been considered an additionally-ran within the area race.

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