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.


Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

Updated 20 March 2019
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

  • 5G will be used in 30% of big cities in Saudi Arabia by 2020
  • 90% of KSA has 4G technology coverage, including remote centers and villages

RIYADH: Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the main drivers of development in today’s world, a Riyadh forum on “Digital Transformation for an Ambitious Country” has been told.

In his opening speech to the annual Communications and Information Technology Indicators Forum, Abdul Aziz Al-Ruwais, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said the ICT sector stimulated productivity, enhanced competitiveness and encouraged innovation.

On Wednesday, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, joined regional and global leaders in the ICT sector, telecom executives and government officials at the forum.

Al-Ruwais said that ICT has been used to “develop strategies and regulatory policies that can guarantee the availability of infrastructure, basic apparatus and services in all regions of the Kingdom.”

“In order to facilitate the mission of researchers, experts and those interested in telecommunication services indicators, the Communications and Information Technology Commission established an electronic platform that allows the user to have access to indicators and statistics related to the sector. This platform enables the user to view the indicators in the form of tables and detailed graphs,” he said.

Al-Ruwais said the commission has achieved 90 percent coverage of 4G technologies in the Kingdom, including remote centers and villages.

He said the authority has issued temporary licenses for fifth-generation networks, equipping 153 sites with 5G in nine cities. So far, 680 trials were conducted for 5G.

He said that ICT services achieved high indicators during the 2017 Hajj season, with local and international calls totaling 439 million through 16,000 base stations.

Mufarreh Nahari, director of Market Studies at CITC, said: “It is expected that by 2020 the experimental uses of 5G will be fully completed and they will be ready to launch the official 5G sim by then. By the end of 2020 we expect that 5G will be used in 30 percent of the big cities in Saudi Arabia.”

The past three years have seen an increase in internet usage. In 2018, two-thirds of Internet users in the Kingdom used the internet for more than four hours a day, said Nahari.

Ammar Al-Ansari, department head of Country Digital Acceleration at Cisco, said: “The agreements signed by the crown prince during his overseas visits led to the introduction of a number of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, including virtual schools and smart classrooms.” 

Seven schools in Saudi have a live stream for teachers to connect with their students. They may be 250 km to 300 km apart, but an active learning session takes place between students and educators.

Al-Ansari displayed a video from a teacher in Jeddah giving lessons to students in the northern region via a smart board. AI was used to monitor and analyze students’ attention spans. 

The analysis will help educators update traditional teaching methods.