"Big Step For Chinese People" As Rover Drives On Far Side Of The Moon

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, 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 travelled.

Beijing 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.

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.

China Lands Probe On "Dark Side" Of Moon In Global First: State Media

Beijing, China: A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the moon on Thursday, in a global first that boosts Beijing's ambitions to become a space superpower.

The Chang'e-4 probe touched down and sent a photo of the so-called "dark side" of the moon to the Queqiao satellite, which will relay communications to controllers on Earth, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Beijing 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 lunar probe mission -- named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology -- launched in December from the southwestern Xichang launch centre.

It is the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover mission in 2013.

Unlike the near side of the moon that offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged.

The moon is "tidally locked" to Earth in its rotation so the same side is always facing 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 far side.

The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Extreme challenges 

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the moon's mysterious and heavily cratered "dark side".

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface there, and it is no easy technological feat -- China has been preparing for this moment for years.

A major challenge for such a mission was communicating with the robotic lander: as there is no direct "line of sight" for signals to the far side of the moon.

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.

In another extreme hurdle, during the lunar night -- which lasts 14 Earth days -- temperatures drop to 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 have to withstand those fluctuations and it has to generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night.

Adding to the difficulties, Chang'e-4 was sent to the Aitken Basin in the lunar south pole region -- known for its craggy and complex terrain -- state media has said.

Yutu also 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.

Water on Mars PICTURED: ESA shares incredible IMAGES of Martian ice crater

The European Space Agency has shared an incredible composite image showing a 50-mile wide crater on Mars that is filled with water ice all year long.

Budding future colonists hoping for a white Christmas on Mars will be somewhat disappointed as the ESA has confirmed that sitting in the Korolev crater is, in fact, a thick block of water ice, not snow. The enormous, 82-kilometer-wide, 2-kilometer-deep “ice trap” could still be good for ice skating though.

A beautiful wonderland... on ! This ice-filled crater was imaged by our Mars Express spacecraft. Korolev crater is 82 kilometres across and found in the northern lowlands of Mars. More images:

Even better, the 2,200 cubic kilometers of water ice – same as the volume of Canada’s Great Bear Lake – could be important for the survival of future colonists, and may even enable them to return back home, as water could be split into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.

For those of you asking - yes it is water ice. Mars Express first detected water on in 2004, see our release at the time . More recently, the spacecraft detected liquid water under the planet’s south pole, see:

The crater is found in the northern lowlands of Mars near the planet's north pole which is known as Olympia Undae for its wavy, dune-filled terrain. The crater's ice is protected by the topography and by a lair of cold air that shields it from the elements.

 

© ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

 

Also on rt.com Listen to the sky: NASA reveals the sound of wind on Mars (AUDIO)  

The icy crater is named after chief rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergey Korolev, known as the father of Soviet space technology and the head of iconic space exploration missions including the Sputnik, Vostok, and Voskhod programs. A lesser known fact is that Korolev dreamt about a flight to Mars for decades and was actually working on a rocket that would have brought a man to the Red Planet – and who knows where this unfinished project might have ended if it wasn’t for the Soviet visionary’s untimely death in 1966.

READ MORE: Sergey Korolev: Space exploration's No. 1 constructor & total enigma

 

Breaking Dawn: NASA’s asteroid belt mission runs out of fuel

After 11 years, 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) and two planetary orbits, NASA’s Dawn mission has been declared over after the craft failed to communicate with Earth for two days in a row.

The 11-year mission to investigate “time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter” in the asteroid belt concluded after Dawn finally ran out of hydrazine fuel, which meant it could no longer turn to face Earth, to communicate, or the sun, to recharge.

Dusk for Dawn: NASA Mission to the Asteroid Belt

The probe, currently in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, missed communications with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Wednesday and Thursday; and mission managers were forced to confirm the end of the mission.

Oxygen discovery ‘completely changes’ potential for life on Mars - study

Eyed as prime real estate, Mars currently occupies the mind of space innovation suitors. Billions is being spent in the race to get humans to the planet but can the barren landscape be tamed? A new oxygen study provides hope.

SpaceX, Blue Origin and Boeing all have aspirations to put humans on the ground of the Red Planet. The US space agency NASA has a longstanding interest while Russia and even the United Arab Emirates each outlined their capabilities to get to, what data suggests is, a sparse, unsustainable landscape.

However, a new study into the cold, desert world could provide new impetus for explorers given that it suggests deposits of briny water may contain enough oxygen to support microbial life.

READ MORE: Is this ‘life on Mars’? New project makes walking on red planet a virtual reality (VIDEO)

Published in the Nature journal, the study was led by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Using atmospheric models to test how oxygen might react in water underneath the Red Planet’s surface, the team found evidence to suggest that the life sustaining chemical element could be present to a degree higher than expected.

“Even at the limits of the uncertainties, our findings suggest that there can be near-surface environments on Mars with sufficient O2 available for aerobic microbes to breathe,” the study states.

The study found that “high concentrations” would likely be in polar regions due to lower temperatures observed in the alien environment. “Our findings may help to explain the formation of highly oxidized phases in Martian rocks observed with Mars rovers, and imply that opportunities for aerobic life may exist on modern Mars,” the study adds.

Large bodies of water have proved elusive on Mars but over the years geological evidence obtained by NASA rovers suggest the planet was once water soaked. In 2015, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter beamed back data showing hydrated minerals giving rise to the belief that liquid water flows intermittently on the planet.

READ MORE: Emergency escape at 6000 km/h: How near miss Soyuz rocket accident unfolded (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Speaking about the development, the study's lead author Vlada Stamenković said the discovery could change everything.

“That's the thing of habitability; we never thought that environment could have that much oxygen. It completely changes our understanding of the potential for life on current-day Mars,” he told the National Geographic.

China Plans To Launch 'Artificial Moon' By 2020. Will Be 8 Times Brighter

Beijing: China is planning to launch its own 'artificial moon' by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas, state media reported Friday.

Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, is developing "illumination satellites" which will shine in tandem with the real moon, but are eight times brighter, according to China Daily.

The first man-made moon will launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, with three more to follow in 2022 if the first test goes well, said Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society, the organization responsible for the project.

Though the first launch will be experimental, the 2022 satellites "will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential," he said in an interview with China Daily.

By reflecting light from the sun, the satellites could replace streetlamps in urban areas, saving an estimated 1.2 billion yuan ($170 million) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu, if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometers.

The extraterrestrial source of light could also help rescue efforts in disaster zones during blackouts, he added.

AFP was not able to contact Wu nor the Tian Fu New Area Science Society to confirm the reports.

As China's space programme races to catch up with that of the United States and Russia, a number of ambitious projects are in the pipeline, including the Chang'e-4 lunar probe -- named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology -- which aims to launch later this year. If it succeeds, it will be the first rover to explore the "dark side" of the moon.

China is not the first country to try beaming sunlight back to Earth. In the 1990s, Russian scientists reportedly used giant mirrors to reflect light from space in an experimental project called Znamya or Banner.

Chengdu's artificial moon project was announced by Wu at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu on October 10.

In addition to Tian Fu New Area Science Society, other universities and institutes, including the Harbin Institute of Technology and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, are involved in developing Chengdu's illumination satellites.

Water worlds can support life – we don’t need another ‘Earth,’ study finds

A world entirely covered in water could support life, according to a new study which challenges the prevailing scientific thought that living entities need a planet like Earth in order to survive.

After running more than 1,000 simulations, researchers at the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania State University found that ocean planets can stay in the “sweet spot” needed to support the cycling of minerals and gases that keep the climate stable on Earth, for much longer than previously assumed.

 

This really pushes back against the idea you need an Earth clone – that is, a planet with some land and a shallow ocean,” said Edwin Kite, assistant professor of geophysical sciences at UChicago and lead author of the study. The team’s findings are published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Astronomers have been scoping the solar system for Earth-like planets that could one day support life for decades – resulting in the relatively recent discovery of several exoplanets that appear to be humankind’s best shot at an alternative to their home planet.

However, some of the exoplanet options have been deemed less viable because they’re completely covered in an ocean hundreds of miles deep, covering all rock and suppressing volcanoes.

Through a simulation of thousands of randomly-generated planets which tracked their climate evolution over billions of years, the team found that many sitting in just the right location around their stars stayed stable for longer than expected.

READ MORE: Kepler-90: NASA announces discovery of solar system similar to ours

The surprise was that many of them stay stable for more than a billion years, just by luck of the draw,” Kite said. “Our best guess is that it’s on the order of 10 percent of them.”

Kite says the scientific community has been too quick to disregard the ocean planets because they can’t regulate their temperature in the way Earth does – by drawing down greenhouse gases into minerals and warming the planet by releasing them via volcanoes.

The team found that any planet with the right amount of carbon and the ability to cycle it between the atmosphere and ocean is enough to maintain the planet’s balance.

NASA Unveils Program Aimed At Preventing An Asteroid Apocalypse

Among Earth's natural disasters-hurricanes, floods, earthquakes-the one humans probably ponder least is asteroids, huge objects zipping through our solar system at ludicrous speeds.

Federal officials call an asteroid or comet collision "low probability but high consequence," NASA-speak for it will probably never happen, but if it does we're toast. With that in mind, the U.S. and other nations have long sought to track such "near-Earth objects," or NEOs, coordinating efforts through the International Asteroid Warning Network and the United Nations.

The Trump administration now wants to enhance those efforts to detect and track potential planet killers, and to develop more capable means to deflect any that appear to be on a collision course.

"Fortunately, this type of destructive event is extremely rare," said Aaron Miles, an official with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. But just to be safe, the government unveiled new goals this week for NASA's work on countering NEOs over the next decade. If you're envisioning Bruce Willis or humming an Aerosmith song, please stop. This is serious.

More than 300,000 objects larger than 40 meters (131 feet) wide orbit the sun as NEOs, according to NASA estimates, with many being difficult to detect more than a few days in advance. Forty meters is about the average size an object must be to make it through the atmosphere without burning up; thousands of much-smaller meteors disintegrate harmlessly each day far above the planet. The meteor that injured more than 1,000 people in Chelyabinsk, Russia in February 2013, mainly by glass shattered from the shock wave of its explosion, was believed to be about 20 meters wide (65 feet).

The most recent encounter with an asteroid was on June 2, when a 2-meter boulder dubbed 2018 LA entered the atmosphere at 10 miles per second (38,000 mph) and exploded over Botswana.

OK, now here's the good news: NASA has documented roughly 96 percent of the objects large enough to cause a global catastrophe since work began in 1998, said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office. On Thursday alone, five massive asteroids zipped within 4.6 million miles of Earth-which is pretty close in space-including one called 2017 YE5, a 1,600-foot wide behemoth that, if it paid us a visit, would ruin everyone's day. But NASA has its number.

Also good news: This growing catalog of potentially Armageddon-causing (don't do it-the movie was terrible) objects offers the world years of notice about when an orbit would intercept Earth, given the immense distances asteroids and comets travel through space. For example, 101955 Bennu, a 1,600-foot wide carbon asteroid found in 1999 and which figures prominently in NASA's current deep-space research, has only a 1-in-24,000 chance of hitting Earth-and that's 157 years from now.

Today, NASA's catalog contains 18,310 NEOs, with about 8,000 of them classified as 140 meters wide and larger. That's the size at which enormous regional impacts and mass casualties would occur if one hit. How government agencies would prepare for such a calamity is a novelty to most.

"One of the key things we're finding is that, for emergency managers, this is so different we have to first educate them," said Leviticus Lewis, a response coordinator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Now, more bad news: A chance remains that large comets from the outer solar system could suddenly appear and hit Earth with only a few months' warning. There's also the potential for a surprise from deep space-an object whose orbit isn't bound by the sun-like the kind that showed up last October. That's when Oumuamua, a 400-meter, cigar-shaped oddity, whizzed past the sun at almost 200,000 mph. The intriguing object was the first known to have come from interstellar space, to which it is now returning.

So can we do anything? NASA has devised three strategies for potentially sparing Earth annihilation by asteroid, with each method's effectiveness determined by the size and composition of an asteroid and how much warning there is.

Kinetic impact: A direct hit with a spacecraft to produce even a miniscule nudge may be sufficient if the asteroid has millions of miles yet to travel before it strikes the planet. Gravity: Attaching a spacecraft to an asteroid-what NASA dubs a "gravity tractor"-would alter its path because of the enlarged mass. And landing on a NEO is well within science's current toolbox: The European Space Agency landed on a comet four years ago, and Japan's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is nearing an asteroid called Ryuga this month. NASA plans a similar rendezvous in December with Bennu. The downside-an asteroid can't be larger than 100 meters wide or this technique won't work. Nuke it: No, not like the movie. A nuclear explosion on a massive asteroid would superheat the surface and cause some of the mass to slough off, Johnson said on a call June 20 with reporters. A rocket could then theoretically push the asteroid to a different trajectory. This option, however, works only for a large body of which scientists have at least a decade's notice.

The Obama and Trump administrations have both sought more funds for asteroid research, with the annual budget jumping from $12 million to $150 million in this administration's most recent request.

Most of that funding is for NASA to complete its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission in 2021-22. The goal is to impact the smaller "moonlet" of a binary asteroid called Didymos, to learn how well we may be able to alter the course of a future killer rock.

If successful, then mankind will know it has a viable option, if someday we see something headed our way.

Subscribe to this RSS feed