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EI2GYB > ASTRO    06.10.21 09:10l 88 Lines 4503 Bytes #715 (0) @ WW
BID : 15612_EI2GYB
Subj: 1,000 days on the moon! China's Chang'e 4 lunar
Sent: 211006/0702Z @:EI2GYB.DGL.IRL.EURO #:15612 BPQ6.0.22

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1,000 days on the moon! China's Chang'e 4 lunar far side mission hits big

A Chinese lander and rover are still up and running more than 1,000 Earth days
after they made a historic first-ever landing on the far side of the moon.

The Chang'e 4 lander carrying the Yutu 2 rover touched down in Von K rm n
Crater on Jan. 2, 2019, and the robotic mission has been exploring the unique
area of our celestial neighbor ever since. 

Both spacecraft reached the 1,000-days-on-the-moon mark on Sept. 28. The Yutu 2
rover has covered a total of 2,754 feet (839.37 meters) of lunar ground and
acquired 3,632.01 gigabytes of data during its driving, Chinese officials have

Together, the two spacecraft have returned stunning images and panoramas from
the lunar far side, revealed secrets from below the surface, measured how much
radiation astronauts would face, and have been spotted by NASA's Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Yutu 2 has set a new longevity record for a rover working on the surface of the
moon, surpassing the previous record of 321 days set by the Soviet Union's
robotic Lunokhod 1 rover. Youtube 2 is now headed toward a distant basaltic
area, but it may take years to reach the new site.

Despite dealing with alternating deep cold and searing heat of lunar nights and
days, intense solar radiation and abrasive lunar regolith, Chang'e 4, named
after the Chinese goddess of the moon, and Yutu 2 ("Jade Rabbit 2"), the
mythical pet rabbit of Chang'e, are still working well, as are their scientific
instruments, according to the China Lunar Exploration Program. 

The solar-powered spacecraft regularly shut down during the lunar night, each
of which lasts about 14.5 Earth days. The pair began their 35th lunar day on
Sep. 29. 

The satellite that allows the Chang'e 4 mission to communicate with Earth is
also healthy. The Queqiao ("Magpie Bridge") relay satellite launched in 2018 to
orbit around a point beyond the moon, from where it can see both the lunar far
side and Earth at all times. 

Queqiao is needed to bounce data and commands between the spacecraft on the
moon and mission control because the lunar far side never faces Earth.

Some of the published results from Chang'e 4 data are still being discussed. A
recent 'Matters arising' piece in the journal Nature Astronomy authored by
Elena Pettinelli and others challenges interpretations of low-frequency
ground-penetrating radar data made by J. Zhang et al. last year, contending
that some signals presented as layers of rock are instead artifacts generated
by the radar's system design and antenna configuration, in a similar manner as
occurred with the same instrument on Chang'e 3. 

Zhang at al. replied, confirming that there were electromagnetic disturbances,
but the team had taken steps to identify and remove this noise from the data,
allowing for insight into the layering beneath Von K rm n crater.

Chang'e 4 was originally designed as a backup to Chang'e 3 and would have
provided a second shot at a lunar landing and rover mission if the first
failed. Chang'e 4 was repurposed for a more ambitious mission after the
successful 2013 landing of Chang'e 3. 

The first Yutu rover lost its ability to drive after just two lunar days due to
a short circuit. Yutu 2 was redesigned to prevent rocks damaging its circuitry
and has proved much more durable.

China launched its first lunar sample return mission in late 2020. The Chang'e
5 mission successfully delivered 3.816 pounds (1.731 kilograms) of fresh lunar
samples to Earth in December. The country will follow up by sending Chang'e 6
to collect samples from the far side of the moon in 2024.

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