Chinese rover ‘Jade Rabbit’ drives on far side of the moon

The Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) rover on the ‘dark side’ of the moon. (China National Space Administration/AFP)
Updated 04 January 2019
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Chinese rover ‘Jade Rabbit’ drives on far side of the moon

  • Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission was the second Chinese probe to land on the moon following the Yutu rover mission in 2013
  • Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang’e-5, later this year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth

BEIJING: A Chinese lunar rover has driven on the far side of the moon, the national space agency announced on Friday, hailing the development as a “big step for the Chinese people.”
The Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) rover drove onto the moon’s surface from the lander at 10:22pm Thursday (1422 GMT), about 12 hours after the groundbreaking touchdown of the Chang’e-4 probe, the agency said.
The China National Space Administration released a photo taken by the lander showing tracks left by the rover as it departed the spacecraft, though it did not specify how far the rover traveled.
Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space program, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.
Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission — named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology — was the second Chinese probe to land on the moon following the Yutu rover mission in 2013.
The separation of the rover — which is named after the moon goddess’ pet white rabbit — went smoothly, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar project.
“Although this was one small step for the rover, I think it is one big step for the Chinese people,” he said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV, echoing the famous quote by US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon in 1969.
No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface of the far side of the moon, and it is no easy technological feat. Challenges include communicating with the robotic lander as there is no direct “line of sight” for signals.
The photo of the rover was sent via the Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) satellite, which was blasted into the moon’s orbit in May to relay data and commands between the lander and Earth.
Chang’e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from abroad, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies — aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the moons’ far side.
The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said.
Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang’e-5, later this year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.
It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.


Russian scientists find defect in new heavy lift space rocket engine

Updated 18 January 2019
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Russian scientists find defect in new heavy lift space rocket engine

  • The new heavy lift space rocket is capable of carrying more than 20 tons into the orbit
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said the project is very important for the country's defense

MOSCOW: Scientists have discovered a defect in the engines of Russia’s new flagship heavy lift space rocket that could destroy it in flight, an apparent setback to a project President Vladimir Putin has said is vital for national security.
The Angara A5, which was test-launched in 2014, is being developed to replace the Proton M as Russia’s heavy lift rocket, capable of carrying payloads bigger than 20 tons into orbit. A launch pad for the new rocket is due to open in 2021.
In July, Putin said the Angara A5 had “huge significance” for the country’s defense and called on space agency Roscosmos to work more actively on it and to meet all its deadlines.
The issue with the Angara A5 was brought to attention by scientists at rocket engine manufacturer Energomash in a paper ahead of a space conference later this month.
The paper, reported by RIA news agency on Friday and published online, said the engines of the Angara A5 could produce low frequency oscillations that could ultimately destroy the rocket.
A special valve had been fitted to mitigate the issue, but in some cases the oscillations continued, it said. Energomash did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Russia’s space program has been dogged by mishaps in recent years, including failed cargo delivery missions into space and the aborted launch in October of the manned Soyuz mission to the International Space Station. Russia’s current heavy lift rocket, the Proton M, has had a nearly 10 percent failure rate in more than 100 launches since it entered service in 2001, creating pressure to reorganize and improve the space program.