Chinese rover Jade Rabbit 2 powers up devices in pioneering moon mission

China’s lunar rover leaves wheel marks after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon. (China National Space Administration/Xinhua News Agency via AP)
Updated 05 January 2019
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Chinese rover Jade Rabbit 2 powers up devices in pioneering moon mission

  • The Jade Rabbit 2 rover has succeeded in establishing a digital transmission link
  • China’s space program lags America’s, but has made great strides in the past 15 years

BEIJING: All systems are go as a Chinese spacecraft and rover power up their observation equipment after making a first-ever landing on the far side of the moon, the Chinese National Space Administration said.
The Jade Rabbit 2 rover has succeeded in establishing a digital transmission link with a relay satellite that sends data back to the Beijing control center, the space agency said in a posting late Friday on its website.
The rover’s radar and panoramic camera have been activated and are working normally, it said. A photo released by the agency showed the rover stopped at a point not far from where the Chang’e 4 spacecraft touched down Thursday.
Chang’e 4, named after a Chinese moon goddess, is the first craft to make a soft landing on the moon’s far side, which faces away from Earth. Previous landings, including one by China’s Chang’e 3 in 2013, have been on the near side.
After sending the rover off from a ramp, the spacecraft deployed three 5-meter (16-foot) low-frequency radio antennas, the Chinese space agency said. Chang’e 4 also has sent back images taken with a topographical camera.
Researchers hope that low-frequency observations of the cosmos from the far side, where radio signals from Earth are blocked by the moon, will help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and even the birth of the universe’s first stars.
Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb noted, however, that the relay satellite needed to send back information from the far side also contaminates the sky.
“As long as we keep it clean of radio interference, the far side of the moon is very good for radio astronomy,” he said.
The far side has been observed many times from lunar orbits, but never explored on the surface. It is popularly called the “dark side” because it can’t be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.
“It’s just the far side, it can be either dark or light,” Loeb said, depending on the time of day.
The pioneering landing highlights China’s ambitions to rival the US, Russia and Europe in space. Both China’s space community and public have taken pride in the accomplishment, with some drawing comparisons to the United States.
China’s space program lags America’s, but has made great strides in the past 15 years, including manned flights and a space laboratory that is seen as a precursor to plans for a space station.


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.