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

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.


World’s first female spacewalking team makes history

Updated 18 October 2019

World’s first female spacewalking team makes history

  • NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exited the International Space Station on Friday

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: The world’s first female spacewalking team is making history high above Earth.
NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exited the International Space Station on Friday, the first time in a half-century of spacewalking that a woman floated out without a male crewmate. Their job is to fix a broken part of the station’s solar power network.
America’s first female spacewalker from 35 years ago, Kathy Sullivan, is delighted. She says it’s good to finally have enough women in the astronaut corps and trained for spacewalking for this to happen.
NASA originally wanted to conduct an all-female spacewalk last spring, but did not have enough medium-size suits ready to go.

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