China launches rover for first far side of the moon landing
SEE ALSO :Trade with China skewed against Kenya"This is one of the first times they've done something that no one else has done before." - Next up: humans - It is no easy technological feat -- China has been preparing for this moment for years. A major challenge for such a mission is communicating with the robotic lander: as the far side of the moon always points away from earth, there is no direct "line of sight" for signals. As a solution, China in May blasted the Queqiao ("Magpie Bridge") satellite into the moon's orbit, positioning it so that it can relay data and commands between the lander and earth.
SEE ALSO :Malaysian golfer dies in hotel roomBeijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon. The Chang'e 4 mission is a step in that direction, significant for the engineering expertise needed to explore and settle the moon, McDowell said. "The main thing about this mission is not science, this is a technology mission," he said. - 'National pride' - Chang'e-4 will be the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") rover mission in 2013. Once on the moon's surface, the rover faces an array of extreme challenges. During the lunar night -- which lasts 14 earth days -- temperatures will drop as low as minus 173 degrees Celsius (minus 279 Fahrenheit). During the lunar day, also lasting 14 earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127 C (261 F). The rover's instruments must withstand those fluctuations and it must generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night. Yutu conquered those challenges and, after initial setbacks, ultimately surveyed the moon's surface for 31 months. Its success provided a major boost to China's space programme. Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang'e-5, next 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. "Our country's successful lunar exploration project not only vaults us to the top of the world's space power ranks, it also allows the exploration of the far side of the moon," said Niu Min, an expert on China's space programme. The project, he said in an interview with local website Netease, "greatly inspires everyone's national pride and self-confidence".
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