January 19, 2019

China names new moon rover "Yutu-2"

08 January 2019, 06:16 | Ross Houston

Photos show Chinese rover making tracks on the far side of the moon

The moon in a waning gibbous phase and briefly visible on an otherwise cloudy day is seen from Seattle

A robotic Chinese spacecraft named Chang'e 4 braked out of lunar orbit and slowed to a controlled touchdown on the far side of the moon Thursday, a first in the history of space exploration.

Like its predecessor, Yutu-2, capable of enduring vacuum pressure, intense radiation, and extreme temperatures is equipped with four scientific payloads, including a panoramic camera, infrared imaging spectrometer and radar measurement devices, to obtain images of the moon's surface and detect lunar soil and structure.

The Jade Rabbit 2 rover drove off its lander's ramp and onto the soft, snow-like surface at 10:22 p.m. Thursday, about 12 hours after a Chinese spacecraft made the first-ever landing on the moon's far side.

Lunar rover Yutu-2 has been driving on the far side of the moon after separating from the lander and scientific devices on both the lander and rover are now gathering data, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said late Friday.

After the successful landing, experts verified the conditions of "Queqiao", meaning Magpie Bridge, which was launched in May of 2018 to set up the communication link between the Earth and the moon's far side. Instead of finding a collection of record players spinning Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon backwards, the probe sent back a photograph of a desolate rocky surface pitted with a single crater, said to be the oldest and deepest on the moon.

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Since the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces the Earth.

Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb noted, however, that the relay satellite needed to send back information from the far side also contaminates the sky.

The CNSA said that Yutu is a symbol of kindness, purity, and agility, and is identical to the moon rover in both outlook and connotation. The far side can't be seen from Earth and is popularly called the "dark side" because it is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.

While China's space program still lags America's, He said "China has already positioned itself at least as good as Russian Federation and the European Union".

"We are building China into a space giant", Dr. Wu said in his televised remarks. The next step is for China to build its own space station next year, with the hope of having it operative as early as 2022.

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