Chinese Satellite Reveals Image of Moon’s Far Side and Earth Together
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Why China's Over the Moon

15:37 05.01.2019

Finian Cunningham

China has not just made an historic landing on the moon. It has also given notice that the country is set to become a global leader in technology and science. And it is proving American trade disputes for the envious vandalism that they really are.

Earlier this week, China's national space agency celebrated the new year with a successful touchdown of an unmanned lunar probe. But unlike previous lunar landings by the United States and Russia, the Chang'e-4 module was able to navigate to the far side of the moon.

The so-called dark side of the moon — which never faces planet Earth — presents unique technical challenges because of communication problems. But the Chinese have done it. And the achievement is being hailed as "a new chapter in space exploration".

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While the US and Russia have been the leaders in space technology for several decades, it is China that can now claim to be taking up the mantle in cutting-edge exploration. These three countries are the only ones that have put rockets and astronauts into space using their own engineers and technology.

Last year, for the first time, China launched more space rockets than any other nation. It is reportedly planning to send another landing module to the far side of the moon later this year — Chang'e-5 — which will be able to take off from the moon's surface and return to Earth.

The timing of these space milestones could not be more appropriate.

In the coming days, an American political delegation is arriving in Beijing to try to overcome the looming trade war between the two economic giants. The Americans want China to make big concessions in terms of buying more US exports and imposing curbs on their hi-tech industries.

The trade war was launched by US President Donald Trump last year with punitive tariffs worth $300 billion slapped on Chinese exports. China has responded with its own counter-tariffs, and there are deep concerns that the dispute is damaging the global economy.

The Trump administration has justified its bruising trade sanctions on China with claims that Beijing's economic policies are "unfair" and that Chinese companies are involved in stealing American technology and abusing intellectual property rights. China rejects those accusations.

Trump's purported complaints against China are embarrassingly undermined by the successful Chinese moon landing this week.

The scientific and technological capability to pull off such a feat is mind-bending.

The New York Times quotes Zhu Menghua, a professor at Macau University of Science and Technology, as saying: "This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration. We, Chinese people, have done something that the Americans have not dared try."

Thus, the photographs of the dark side of the moon being relayed back to China's space agency speak more than thousands of words. Those images tell of China's immense scientific advances made under the political leadership of President Xi Jinping. It's the cheeky equivalent of: "Eh, what's that Donald about us stealing your technology?"

It's not just in space exploration either. China's planned economy, research and development is also reportedly breaking new ground in artificial intelligence, telecommunications, genetic engineering, and military missile systems. By contrast, American corporate capitalism has lost ground in nearly all areas.

The predicament of American tech giant Apple is allegorical. Its products are vastly overpriced and flatlining in innovation, while Chinese state-owned companies like Huawei are becoming market leaders with affordable, smarter devices that consumers are increasingly being won over by.

Not only are Trump's allegations of Chinese unfair trade and theft of technology spectacularly disproven by the historic moon landing this week, the denouement also reveals what the American trade war agenda is really about.

Washington is using trade tariffs and sanctions, as well as slanderous smearing, as weapons in order to illegitimately thwart China as a global rival. Unable to do it by fair means, the Americans are resorting to dirty tricks.

The Americans can't very well admit the plain truth — that their capitalist system is bankrupt and dysfunctional, and that they have lost their once-formidable innovative and technological energy. No, what the Americans must do is to disguise their diminishing strength by slandering perceived rivals: China and Russia in particular.

What Trump is trying to do is hobble and hamper China's economic and technological development through foul means. By claiming Chinese theft of American technology, Washington is aiming to crimp China with sanctions — sanctions that would otherwise be seen as blatantly illegal and warmongering.

The arrogant Americans can't face up to the fact that their days of global leadership are over — through their own squandering of economic resources, illegal wars and other injustices. They want to make China and Russia impose limits on their own rightful development in order to revitalize the moribund American economy.

This tawdry and dangerous American agenda of inciting global tensions with China and Russia is shown up for what it is by the historic moon landing this week.

No wonder that China is over the moon.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.



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China lands Chang’e-4 mission on the far side of the Moon

written by Rui C. Barbosa January 3, 2019

[Image: 2019-01-04-15_22_18-index.php-1024%C3%971024.jpg]

Following a December 7, 2018 launch on a Long March-3B/G3Z rocket, China has now landed its fourth and most ambitious lunar exploration mission on Thursday, January 3, 2019. This is the first mission to land on the far side of the Moon.

The Chang’e-4 mission is part of the second phase of China’s lunar program, which includes orbiting, landing and returning to Earth. It follows the success of the Chang’e-1, Chang’e-2 and Chang’e-3 missions in 2007, 2010 and 2013.

The launch mass of Chang’e-4 spacecraft was around 3,780 kg, while the lander has a mass of around 1,200 kg and the rover has a mass of 140 kg.

The mission is composed of two distinct elements: the lander and the rover. The lander is equipped with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to power the lunar operations during the three-month mission. The energy will be used to power the scientific payload of seven instruments and cameras.

The lunar rover will explore the lunar surface after departing the lander and is equipped with a solar panel to power the vehicle during the lunar day on a three month mission.

With 1.5 m high, the rover has a payload capacity of 20 kg, the rover will be capable of real time video transmission and will also be able to dig and perform simple analysis of soil samples.

The lander will be equipped with an important scientific payload, a low-frequency radio spectrometer, specially designed for the far side of the moon.

The rover carries the panoramic camera (PCAM) to obtain three-dimensional images of the landing and patrolling lunar surface for investigation of surface morphology and geological structure, the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) for surveying the lunar sub-surface structure to investigate surface morphology and geological structure, the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS) for patrol area lunar surface infrared spectroscopy and imaging exploration to survey lunar surface material composition and available resources.

The lander carries the Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), and the Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS).

There are also three international joint collaboration payloads installed on the Chang’e−4 explorer, which are the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND) installed on the lander and developed in Germany, the Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN) installed on the rover for observations of energy-neutral atoms and positive ions in patrol area to investigate the particle radiation environment in the patrol area, and the Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer (NCLE) installed on the relay satellite Queqiao.

The LFS is newly developed for Chang’e−4 lander, and another five kinds of payloads are the inherited instruments from Chang’e−3.

The LFS will be used for the detection of low-frequency radio frequency characteristics of the sun and the moon’s low-frequency radio environment to perform low-frequency radio astronomy observations.

The LFS is used for detecting the low-frequency electric field of the solar storm and to study the Lunar plasma. By detecting the low-frequency electric field from the Sun, the planetary space and the galactic space, the information of electric magnitude, phase, time variance, frequency spectrum, polarization and DoA (Direction of Arrivals) are collected for analysis. With features of variation of the spatial low-frequency electric field, the Lunar plasma environment above the landing site will be analyzed.

The LFS is configured with a three-component decomposition active antenna to receive electromagnetic signals from the Sun and from space.

Each of the three antenna units receives one of the three orthogonal components of the electromagnetic signals. According to radio transmission theory, information such as the electromagnetic intensity, the frequency spectrum, the time variance, the polarization features and the direction of radiation source are obtained by analyzing and processing the exploration data.

The LCAM landing camera was used for optical imaging of the landing area during descent to investigate surface morphology and geological structure, while the objective of the TCAM terrain camera was for optical imaging of the landing area to investigate surface morphology and geological structure.

The LND was developed by the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel (CAU), Germany, with contributions from the Institute for Aerospace Medicine of the German Space Center, the National Space Science Center (NSSC), the National Astronomical Observatories (NAOC) from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). LND is supported by DLR (German Space Agency) through the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

The LND instrument accommodated on the Chang’e-4 Lander has two major science objectives to dosimetry for human exploration of the Moon and to contribute to heliospheric science as an additional measuring point.

LND is designed to measure the time series of dose rate and of linear energy transfer (LET) spectra in the complex radiation field of the lunar surface.

For the second objective, LND is capable to measure particle fluxes and their temporal variations and thus will contribute to the understanding of particle propagation and transport in the heliosphere.

Its stack of 10 silicon solid-state detectors (SSDs) allows to measure protons from 10-30 MeV, electrons from 60-500 keV, alpha particles from 10-20 MeV/n and heavy ions from 15-40 MeV/n. In addition, LND can measure fast neutrons in the energy range from 1-20 MeV and, using two Gd-sandwich detectors, measure fluxes of thermal neutrons, which are sensitive to subsurface water and important for understanding lunar surface mixing processes.

The PCAM panoramic camera will obtain three-dimensional images of the landing and patrolling lunar surface for investigation of surface morphology and geological structure.

Via the Chang’e-3 heritage, the objective of lunar penetrating radar LPR is to the map the lunar regolith and to detect the subsurface geologic structures.

The Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer is also from Chang’e-3 heritage. The VNIS is capable of simultaneously in situ acquiring full reflectance spectra for objects on the lunar surface and performing calibrations. VNIS uses non-collinear acousto-optic tunable filters and consists of a VIS/NIR imaging spectrometer (0.45–0.95 µm), a shortwave IR spectrometer (0.9–2.4 µm), and a calibration unit with dust-proofing functionality.

[Image: 2018-12-07-17_36_32-Dt1KeV7UcAA6w2-.jpg-...70x830.jpg]

The Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals – ASAN was developed by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) in Kiruna, and will be used for Moon radar for surveying the lunar sub-surface structure to investigate surface morphology and geological structure, infrared imaging spectrometer for patrol area lunar surface infrared spectroscopy and imaging exploration to survey lunar surface material composition and available resources, and to make lunar neutron and radiation dose detection and neutral atomic detection for observations of energy-neutral atoms and positive ions in patrol area to investigate the particle radiation environment in the patrol area.

Lunar navigation will be made using special sensors to prevent it from colliding with objects such as small rocks or big boulders.

The autonomous moon rover, which will detach from the lander, will be controlled when necessary by scientists on Earth. The rover uses six wheels that are individually powered. The wheels use a suspension system very similar to the one used on the NASA MER rovers and also on Curiosity.

After entering lunar orbit, Chang’e-4 went through six stages of deceleration to descend from 15 km above to the lunar surface using its only variable thrust engine. During the descent, the attitude of the probe was controlled using 28 small engines.

In lunar orbit, Chang’e-4 prepared itself for the descent. After primary deceleration the probe quickly adjusted its attitude, approaching the lunar surface. In this phase the instruments analyzed the planned descent area, hovering over it. If needed, Chang’e-4 could maneuver in a hazard avoidance maneuver and enteri in the final descent phase in a constant low-velocity descent. The main engine is automatically shut down at an altitude of 4 meters, free falling on the surface.

The probe was set to land on the Von Kármán crater at the South Pole-Aitken, pending confirmation of the actual landing zone.

The soft-landing processes of the U.S. and former Soviet Union’s unmanned spacecraft had no capacity to hover or avoid obstacles. Chang’e-4, on the other hand, could accurately survey landforms at the landing site and identify the safest spots on which to land. In order to land quickly, the probe is equipped with high-precision, fast-response sensors to analyze its motion and surroundings. The variable thrust engine (completely designed and made by Chinese scientists) can generate up to 7,500 newtons of thrust.

The South Pole-Aitken basin is the largest and oldest recognized impact basin on the Moon with a diameter of roughly 2,500 km. The moon’s circumference is just under 11,000 km, meaning the basin stretches across nearly a quarter of the Moon, extending from the crater Aitken in the north and all the way down to the South Pole. Topographic data has shown the enormous effect the South Pole-Aitken impact had on the moon, with the basin being than 8 km deep.

Stratigraphic relationships show that the South Pole-Aitken is the oldest impact basin on the Moon. Lunar samples suggest that most of the major basins on the moon formed around 3.9 billion years ago in a period called the late heavy bombardment. By this time most of the large debris within the solar system should have already accreted to form the planets, so such a large number of big impacts occurring at nearly the same time may have been due to unusual gravitational dynamics in the early Solar System.

Was the impact that caused the South Pole-Aitken basin also a part of some cataclysmic event that occurred 3.9 billion years ago? If so, that impact is strong evidence for an extreme event that would have affected all of the terrestrial planets, including Earth at a time when life was just beginning. If the basin is much older, that may suggest that instead of a spike in the impact rate at 3.9 billion years, the number of impacts simply trailed off from a peak earlier on.

With a diameter of around 186 km, the Von Kármán crater, lying in the north western South Pole-Aitken basin, was formed in the pre-Nectarian. The Von Kármán crater floor was subsequently flooded with one or several generations of mare basalts during the Imbrian period. Numerous subsequent impact craters in the surrounding region delivered ejecta to the floor, together forming a rich sample of the South Pole-Aitken basin and far side geologic history. The topography of the landing region is generally flat at a baseline of around 60 meters.

The Chang’e-4 mission, landing on the far side of the Moon, will be important for the study of planetary formation and evolution and will be an ideal observation site for low-frequency radio.

The study of South Pole-Aitken basin may benefit the discovery of the material composition of lunar crust and mantle. So it opens an important window to the study of the deep-layer material composition of the Moon.

The South Pole-Aitken is a basin with an altitude 13 km lower than its surrounding highlands and is composed of thin crust. Whether in the passive or active modes that bring out the lunar mare basalt, there should have emerged large amount of basalt in South Pole-Aitken basin. However, currently obtained data cannot effectively prove that the basin has abundant basalt. On the other hand, an absence of basalt may indicate something happened in the process of Lunar thermal evolution and differentiation in early times.

Also, comparing the craters in the South Pole-Aitken basin with the lunar mare we can see that the degradation situation in that basin is not obvious. No crater with lunar rays has been discovered at the South Pole-Aitken basin, therefore the formation, evolution, topography and chemical characteristics of craters there are apparently different from those of other terrains.

The astronomical observation of radio waves is one of the most effective methods to study and understand the universe. At present, most portion of the spectrum has been detected, such as ultraviolet wave, radio wave (wavelength less than meters), X-ray (), infrared and millimeter wave and Gamma-ray. But no myriametric wave (<30 MHz) has been detected yet. The detection of myriametric wave is of much importance for all-sky imaging obtained by continuous sky scanning of discrete radio source, cosmic dark times study (21 cm radiation in dark times), solar physics, space weather, extreme-high-energy cosmic ray and neutrino study.

Interfered by ionosphere and Earth radio waves, it is impossible to detect myriametric wave on the Earth. In earlier times, wave detection satellites are RAE-A/B (NASA). RAE-A was launched in 1968 and operated in near-Earth orbit. Its scientific objective was to detect the intensity of cosmic ray (0.2–20 MHz). But it was interfered by radio waves in Earth orbit. RAE-B was launched in 1973 and was injected into the lunar orbit, whose scientific objective was to detect the long-wavelength radio waves (working frequency 25 kHz–13.1 MHz). It demonstrated that the lunar far side is ideal for myriametric wave detection.

At present, low-frequency radio detection was mainly achieved via spacecraft operating in circumlunar orbit by foreign countries but none of them has done this on the Lunar surface.

The exploration of Change’4 will further promote people’s understanding of the far side of the Moon. With a comprehensive analysis and study on the nearside exploration data, more general understanding about the Moon will be obtained and the reliability of a theoretical system will be increased.

China’s Long March to the Moon started in 1998 when the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND) began planning the lunar mission, the tackling major scientific and technological problems. The lunar orbiter project was formally established in January 2004 and the next month the program is named “Project Chang’e” after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the Moon.

The first mission, Chang’e-1 is successfully launched on October 24, 2007, entering in lunar orbit on November 7.

On November 26, Chang’e-1 transmits to Earth the voice of the probe and a Chinese song “Ode to the Motherland”. China’s first picture of the lunar surface is published by Xinhua News Agency. On January 31, 2008, COSTIND publishes the first picture of the lunar polar region taken by Chang’e-1. The first lunar hologram with a resolution of 7 meters is published on November 12, based on data collected by Chang’e-1. In the meantime, the Chang’e-2 mission is approved in October 2008 by the Chinese State Council.

The mission of Chang’e-1 ends when the probe impacts the moon under control on March 1, 2009.

Chang’e-2 is launched successfully aboard a Long March-3C launch vehicle on October 1, 2010. One of the objectives of the mission was to verify the key technologies ahead of the soft-landing. Arriving October 9 on a circular orbit 100 km over the lunar surface after a 112 hour flight, on October 26 the spacecraft transitioned to a closer elliptical orbit after finishing in-orbit tests and took a series of 1.5-meter resolution pictures of the moon’s Sinus Iridium landmark, the chosen landing site of Chang’e-3. After taking pictures of the area, the probe maneuvers again to its original orbit on October 29. The pictures of Sinus Iridium are published on November 8 by the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND).

The six engineering objectives and the four scientific missions of Chang’e-2 are completed on April 1, 2011, and until the end of May the probe surveys the south and north poles of the moon, taking high-resolution pictures of the chosen landing site for Chang’e-3. The extended mission in lunar orbit ends on June 8 and then the probe departs to the second Lagrange Point (L2) orbit, arriving there on August 22. At this point, the gravity of the sun and Earth act in a way that balances the motion of the probe. The main objective of this part of the mission was to test the Chinese tracking and control network.

Chang’e-2 departs from the L2 point on April 15th 2012, going now for an extended mission that took her to a close 3.2 km encounter with the asteroid Toutatis on December 13, taking pictures with a 10 meter resolution.

Launched on December 1st, 2013, Chang’e-3 was the third robotic lunar mission within the China Lunar Exploration Program. The objective was to soft-land on the moon’s surface and deploy an unmanned lunar rover (Yutu) to explore the areas surrounding the landing site. The mission was headed by SASTIND (State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence) and the primary contractor for the probe was CAST (China Academy of Space Technology) of the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation (CASC). CAST, in turn, contracted the Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute to design and develop the spacecraft.

Chang’e-3 was part of the second phase of China’s lunar program. Yutu was China’s first lunar rover, and the first spacecraft in 37 years to make a soft landing on the moon, since the Soviet Luna-24 mission in 1976. It is named after Chang’e, the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology. The landing site of Chang’e-3/Yutu was northern Mare Imbrium, south of Montes Recti.

Chang’e-3 and the lunar rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit) landed on the lunar surface at 1:11 pm UTC on December 14, 2013. Following deceleration, the vehicle quickly adjusted its attitude, approaching the lunar surface. During this phase, the instruments analyzed the planned descent area. The main engine automatically shut down at an altitude of four meters, allowing the rover to free fall on the surface.

The landing sequence was executed perfectly, resulting in the vehicle selecting its preferred landing spot almost immediately, even landing without delay, technically 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

After the soft landing, Chang’e-3 charged and initialized the Yutu rover that soon began to communicate with mission control. After communications were established, Yutu unlocked the docking mechanism and then drove to the ladder transfer mechanism. The transfer mechanism then descended to the surface of the moon and moved away from Chang’e-3.

Some nine hours after the separation, the Chang’e-3 and Yutu began to capture some photographs of each other using the onboard cameras. The lander is equipped with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to power the lunar operations during the three-month mission. The energy will be used to power the scientific payload of seven instruments and cameras.

The Chang’e-3 lander also carried four instruments: the MastCam, the Descent Camera, the Lunar-based Ultraviolet Telescope (LUT) and the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUV).

Yutu was equipped with a solar panel to power the vehicle during the lunar day on a three month mission. During this time, Yutu was to explore a three square kilometer area, traveling a maximum distance of 10 km from the landing point. However, failed just over 100 meters into this trip. The rover was capable of real-time video transmission, while it was able to dig and perform simple analysis of soil samples. For the real-time video transmissions Yutu used the PanCam. These cameras provided stereo images in high-resolution.

In total, the Yutu rover carried four instruments: the PanCam; the Ground Penetration Radar (GPR); the VIS/NIR Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS); and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).



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Will China’s moon landing launch a new space race?

January 4, 2019 11.32am GMT

China became the third country to land a probe on the Moon on Jan. 2. But, more importantly, it became the first to do so on the far side of the moon, often called the dark side. The ability to land on the far side of the moon is a technical achievement in its own right, one that neither Russia nor the United States has pursued.

The probe, Chang’e 4, is symbolic of the growth of the Chinese space program and the capabilities it has amassed, significant for China and for relations among the great power across the world. The consequences extend to the United States as the Trump administration considers global competition in space as well as the future of space exploration.

One of the major drivers of U.S. space policy historically has been competition with Russia particularly in the context of the Cold War. If China’s successes continue to accumulate, could the United States find itself engaged in a new space race?

China’s achievements in space

Like the U.S. and Russia, the People’s Republic of China first engaged in space activities during the development of ballistic missiles in the 1950s. While they did benefit from some assistance from the Soviet Union, China developed its space program largely on its own. Far from smooth sailing, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution disrupted this early programs.

The Chinese launched their first satellite in 1970. Following this, an early human spaceflight program was put on hold to focus on commercial satellite applications. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping articulated China’s space policy noting that, as a developing country, China would not take part in a space race. Instead, China’s space efforts have focused on both launch vehicles and satellites - including communications, remote sensing and meteorology.

This does not mean the Chinese were not concerned about the global power space efforts can generate. In 1992, they concluded that having a space station would be a major sign and source of prestige in the 21st century. As such, a human spaceflight program was re-established leading to the development of the Shenzhou spacecraft. The first Chinese astronaut, or taikonaut, Yang Liwei, was launched in 2003. In total, six Shenzhou missions have carried 12 taikonauts into low earth orbit, including two to China’s first space station, Tiangong-1.

In addition to human spaceflight, the Chinese have also undertaken scientific missions like Chang’e 4. Its first lunar mission, Chang’e 1, orbited the moon in October 2007 and a rover landed on the moon in 2013. China’s future plans include a new space station, a lunar base and possible sample return missions from Mars.

A new space race?

The most notable feature of the Chinese space program, especially compared to the early American and Russian programs, is its slow and steady pace. Because of the secrecy that surrounds many aspects of the Chinese space program, its exact capabilities are unknown. However, the program is likely on par with its counterparts.

In terms of military applications, China has also demonstrated significant skills. In 2007, it undertook an anti-satellite test, launching a ground-based missile to destroy a failed weather satellite. While successful, the test created a cloud of orbital debris that continues to threaten other satellites. The movie “Gravity” illustrated the dangers space debris poses to both satellites and humans. In its 2018 report on the Chinese military, the Department of Defense reported that China’s military space program “continues to mature rapidly.”

Despite its capabilities, the U.S., unlike other countries, has not engaged in any substantial cooperation with China because of national security concerns. In fact, a 2011 law bans official contact with Chinese space officials. Does this signal a new space race between the U.S. and China?

As a space policy researcher, I can say the answer is yes and no. Some U.S. officials, including Scott Pace, the executive secretary for the National Space Council, are cautiously optimistic about the potential for cooperation and do not see the beginning of a new space race. NASA Administrator Jim Brindenstine recently met with the head of the Chinese space program at the International Astronautical Conference in Germany and discussed areas where China and the U.S. can work together. However, increased military presence in space might spark increased competition. The Trump administration has used the threat posed by China and Russia to support its argument for a new independent military branch, a Space Force.

Regardless, China’s abilities in space are growing to the extent that is reflected in popular culture. In Andy Weir’s 2011 novel “The Martian” and its later film version, NASA turns to China to help rescue its stranded astronaut. While competition can lead to advances in technology, as the first space race demonstrated, a greater global capacity for space exploration can also be beneficial not only for saving stranded astronauts but increasing knowledge about the universe where we all live. Even if China’s rise heralds a new space race, not all consequences will be negative.



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With First-Ever Landing on Moon’s Farside, China Enters “Luna Incognita”

The Chang’e-4 mission could have major effects on Earthbound science and politics

By Leonard David on December 21, 2018

Editor’s Note (1/3/19): On January 3, the Chang’e-4 lander touched down near the center of Von Kármán crater on the lunar farside, then deployed its rover, called Yutu 2. With the successful deployment of Yutu 2, China now has two operational spacecraft on the moon—the nation’s Chang’e-3 lander remains operational on the lunar nearside.

China is once again on the threshold of a historic first in its fast-paced exploration of Earth’s moon.

Having sent three previous missions moonward since 2007, including one that hosted the nation’s first-ever robotic lander and rover, China’s latest lunar foray began in the early hours of December 8, 2018, when a Long March-3B carrier rocket launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, carrying the Chang’e-4 spacecraft. Consisting of a lander and a rover, Chang’e-4 is targeting the moon’s farside, the lunar hemisphere that is always facing away from Earth. No spacecraft has ever achieved a soft landing there before, although in 1962 NASA crashed its Ranger 4 probe into the farside surface.

After its launch and 4.5-day voyage to the moon, Chang’e-4 nudged itself into an elliptical lunar orbit to await its appointment with fate. Chinese officials have not publicly announced when Chang’e-4 will attempt a landing, but most experts suspect it would occur no sooner than early January 2019, timed to coincide with the onset of the roughly 14-day period when the farside is bathed in plentiful sunlight for the spacecraft’s solar arrays. The spacecraft’s purported landing locale is Von Kármán, a lunar impact crater situated within an even larger impact crater called South Pole-Aitken basin on the lunar farside. That basin is the oldest and largest impact feature on the Moon.

FARSIDE FORENSICS

“Relative to the nearside, in many respects we know very little about the farside,” says Mark Robinson, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University and the principal investigator for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).

One hope Robinson and other U.S.-based lunar scientists have is that Chang’e-4 might be lucky enough to land near an elusive “mare” region on the lunar farside. Composed of ancient, cooled lava, these basalt-rich deposits are abundant on the lunar nearside but far less frequent on the farside. Their name comes from the Latin word for “sea,” which is exactly what astronomers centuries ago suspected they were due to their dark coloration.

“We do not have a documented sample of a farside mare, so this would be a first look,” Robinson tells Scientific American. Mare basalts represent our best look at the moon’s overall composition and also its mysterious mantle—the layer between the core and crust—so a detailed characterization of a farside mare could allow scientists to learn, among other things, why the nearside and farside look so different, he says.

After Chang’e-4 lands, Robinson says, the LROC camera system aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter should be able to clearly spot the Chinese spacecraft after touchdown. “We should be able to identify the lander and rover tracks if not the rover itself,” he says.

SOFT POWER

Jim Head, an eminent planetary scientist at Brown University in Providence, R.I., says the Chang’e-4 mission is further evidence of China’s view of the moon as not only an object of scientific interest but also an important strategic asset in the nation’s long march to become a new global superpower.

“All spacefaring nations have their sights set on the moon, for reasons of both pride—how they view themselves as a nation—and prestige, in the sense of how others view them,” Head says. “Furthermore, as in the initial Cold War competition between America and the U.S.S.R., successful space exploration is a huge demonstration of ‘soft power,’ the ability to show technological prowess and leadership in a non-threatening peaceful manner.” He adds: “China is clearly in the vanguard of renewed international interest in robotic and human exploration of the moon.”

In China’s case, part of the technological might associated with its foray to the lunar farside is a satellite called “Queqiao,” launched in May 2018 to serve as a communications relay for Chang’e-4. Because the moon’s bulk blocks Earthly radio transmissions to and from the farside, only a satellite such as Queqiao can send data in near real time between the spacecraft and its ground-based controllers. Queqiao, Head says, could be seen less as a one-off support mission and more the first piece of a burgeoning “lunar exploration communications global infrastructure.”

As for what he hopes Chang’e-4 might uncover, Head notes that any mission to the lunar farside is essentially to “Luna Incognita,” and thus inevitably will lead to new discoveries. “Exploration is investigating the unknown, and the demonstration that we can land and explore the lunar farside, particularly the South Pole-Aitken basin, is a fundamental accomplishment, the first steps, a foothold on a new ‘continent.’ Just as it is hard to predict the future, it is hard to predict the results from exploration of the unknown. That’s why we explore!”

WHAT NEXT?

If all goes according to plan, Chang’e-4 should be followed by the Chang’e-5 mission now slated for launch in late 2019. Chang’e-5 will mark China’s second mission to the lunar nearside and will attempt to retrieve samples from Mons Rümker in Oceanus Procellarum, a large area of lunar mare in the northwest of the Moon’s nearside.

Meanwhile, other nations have lunar exploration plans of their own. India’s Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander is set to launch in early 2019, and Russia has announced its intentions to undertake a robotic mission to the moon within the next five years. In the U.S., prodded by the Trump administration’s pro-moon stance, NASA is planning the “Gateway,” a lunar-orbiting astronaut-tended space station, as well as a Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program that would be a public-private partnership to rely on private industry to offer transportation to and from the lunar surface for select payloads.

“CLPS in particular provides multiple platforms and capabilities to reach the Moon through commercial opportunities and partnerships. These CLPS opportunities are key to rapid innovation and rapid spaceflight, and it will be interesting to compare the results of the United States and Chinese approaches in the coming few years,” says Head.

COOPERATION OR COMPETITION?

John Logsdon, professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, says that now is the time to cooperate rather than compete in a renewed global push for lunar exploration.

“China's farside lander is the next step in the country's long-planned program of lunar exploration. As the United States plans its own lunar campaign, to me it makes no sense to exclude Chinese achievements from [an] integrated approach to learning more about the Moon,” says Logsdon. “Rather than view Change’e-4 as competitive and a threat to U.S. leadership, perhaps the new Congress will allow NASA to work with China as well as other spacefaring partners in a truly global exploration effort.” In 2011, Congress enacted legislation forbidding NASA from any bilateral coordination with China.

According to Marcia Smith, a space policy expert and editor of SpacePolicyOnline.com, from a science standpoint China’s interest in studying the Moon seems to dovetail with NASA’s renewed interest in all things lunar. Chang’e-4 involves a number of international partners on the mission from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia, she notes. NASA is seeking partners for its lunar program, too, but must exclude China as a result of Congress’s legal prohibitions.

LUNAR GEOPOLITICS

“Granted, the geopolitical situation with China is delicate, but the same is true of Russia, yet NASA and Russia have extensive space cooperation that is heralded as the exception to strained relationship on other fronts,” Smith says.

So, the circumlunar question of U.S.-China moon politics looms large: If NASA is allowed to cooperate with Russia to achieve common civilian space goals, why not China?

“NASA is anxious to put laser retroreflectors on any spacecraft that lands on the moon,” Smith says. “Perhaps adding one to Chang’e-5 could be a first step.” Congress’s prohibition is not complete, she notes. The language of the act limiting bilateral cooperation instead mandates that Congress must pre-approve anything NASA does with China. “So, the compromise could be to keep the language, but encourage NASA to take a first step, like the retroreflectors or some other small scientific project, and see what happens.”



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The fuel quest that could be driving China’s mission to the moon

Lunar resources could, in theory, help spacecraft push deeper into space

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2019, 4:44pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2019, 10:50pm

China landed a probe on the far side of the moon on Thursday with remarkably little fanfare, yet the feat is one giant leap for a nation that’s long been regarded as an also-ran in the space race.

With entrepreneur Elon Musk tweeting pictures of starships and Nasa targeting a manned mission to the Mars one day in the distant future, the moon might seem a less exciting destination.

But space experts quickly applauded China’s technical mastery in the probe landing, and said that while short-term opportunities to mine the moon for minerals might be minimal, long-term implications for space exploration were real.

“China thinks in decades,” said Clive Neal, a lunar expert at the University of Notre Dame. “The US thinks in presidential terms.”

Last year, for the first time, China passed the United States in orbital launches, most of them for satellites. With the moon landing, China is now positioned as a contender for exploration, communications and space commerce.

The stated goal for the Chang’e 4 sitting on the far side: collect samples and identify what minerals are there.

Space observers said humanity was more likely to find gold, silver, iridium and platinum on asteroids. That does not rule out a moon-mining endeavour in the far future that could serve as a lunar fuel station to the stars.

The primary material on the moon is helium-3, which for now is too expensive to haul back to Earth. In theory, the non-radioactive isotope could be used as fuel for the next generations of spacecraft to explore deeper into space.

Imagine driving from “NYC to LA without gas stations along the way”, said Peter Diamandis, the entrepreneur who founded the XPrize to encourage private spaceships. “If you can get the fuel from space, it reduces the cost.” for those who would mine asteroids, the moon may be the better option if materials are discovered under the surface. Alex Ellery, of Carleton University, says the moon’s treasures are easier to retrieve because it has gravity and is close to Earth.

The next step is bringing humankind back to the moon. There is debate in the US over whether to do a direct landing as soon as possible, or build a lunar base that takes longer. Nasa’s top administrator has committed to the latter option.

“Some people in the US are saying, ‘We want to get humans back there before China’,” according to David Todd, of space research firm Seradata. “Other people are saying we’ve already run that race, and America needs to be careful of rushing up alleys.”

Todd said he expected there would be a genuine market for space tourism, and that the moon might win out.

“Elon Musk senses there could be government money involved and commercial opportunity,” Todd said. “I can see people going to the moon on a two-week holiday, but not to spend two years on Mars.”

China may be testing its ability for more sophisticated missions, according to Neal of Notre Dame. That poses the question of why China chose its particular landing place, at one of the moon’s oldest and deepest craters.

The answer could be simple, he said. From the far side of the moon, Chinese scientists can see farther into space because Earth’s radio waves can’t get in the way.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Quest for fuel could be driving mission to the moon



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Dark side of the Moon: China’s great gig in the sky triggers paranoid US (by Ken Livingstone)


Published time: 10 Jan, 2019 15:55

While China and India could soon overtake America as the world’s largest economies, the US has got to come to terms with this and co-operate with China as it does with Russia on space exploration.

The most amazing event of the new year and perhaps the most significant in our future development was the successful landing of a Chinese space craft for the first time in human history on the far side of the Moon.

This was an amazing technical feat as the robotic probe, Chang’e 4, descended on the unexplored South Pole-Aitken basin. This is the largest impacted structure throughout our whole solar system, caused by a massive collision around four billion years ago.

I remember back in 1959 when, for the first time, we saw photographs of the far side of the Moon. They were beamed back to Earth by the Soviet Union’s Luna 3, which showed remarkable differences with the other side of the Moon. The far side has many more craters and is almost missing the seas of solidified lava that are much more common on the side that faces Earth.

Throughout human history we had never seen the other side of the Moon because the Moon spins on its axis at the same rate as it orbits Earth. Martin Wieser of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics said: “We know the far side from orbital images and satellites, but we don’t know it from the surface. It’s unchartered territory and that makes it very exciting.”

Now, we have seen the first remarkable pictures broadcast from the far side of the Moon after Chang’e 4 released its rover, called Yutu 2, and it drove off the ramp and began cruising across the Moon’s surface just twelve hours after it had landed.

Head of the project, Wu Weiren, called it a “small step for the rover but one giant leap for the Chinese nation.” Over the weeks to come the rover will be testing soil, measuring temperatures and seeking to discover how the Moon was created. It will also try to discover how water originated on the Moon in substantially greater amounts than we ever considered possible.

The reason it has taken so long for this to happen is that as a spacecraft goes behind the Moon it loses all radio contact with Earth which is why in 1962 the US Ranger spacecraft crash landed on the far side and failed to send back any information about what was there. The success of China’s landing is because they have stationed a satellite high above the far side of the Moon which is capable of relaying information to and fro between the probe and Earth.

China’s Chang’e 4 still had to operate on its own but had been designed so that once it was nine miles above the Moon its computer used a rocket booster to decelerate until it was just one hundred metres above the surface and got it to hover whilst it looking for a safe place to land.

Professor Andrew Coates of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London proclaimed: “This is a great technological accomplishment as it was out of sight of Earth, so signals are relayed back by the orbiter and most of the landing was actually done autonomously in difficult terrain. The landing was almost vertical because of the surrounding hills.”

Scientists’ fascination with the far side of the Moon has been about trying to understand why it has so many more deep craters than the other side where lava flows buried the legacy of meteorite impacts. Scientists have speculated for sixty years about why there are such differences on the two sides of the Moon.

The consensus is that this dates back to the origins of our solar system over four billion years ago when all the planets as well as the Moon were bombarded by asteroids created at the beginning at the solar system.

It was not just China’s great success that defined our new year. At the far edge of our solar system NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was flying past Ultima Thule, an amalgamation of two asteroids. It had taken the spacecraft almost 13 years to reach this point as it flashed past at a speed of 32,000 mph.

Ultima Thule lies at the heart of the Kuiper Belt which is the home of boulders, debris and some dwarf planets. US scientists believe that the information collected by New Horizons could give us insight into what the solar system was like at the time of its creation.

I find all of this gripping because I grew up in a world where space exploration dominated our news, from the moment in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite in human history. Called Sputnik, it orbited the Earth for almost three months and was soon followed by Sputnik 2 which contained Laika, a dog who was the first living creature to ever escape our atmosphere. Sadly she died. Just two years later Luna 2, also launched by the Soviet Union, became the first satellite to reach the Moon.

I can remember the newspapers, radio and television were dominated by these events and it triggered two responses. The first came from the US when American presidents were so traumatised at being overtaken by the Soviets that the newly elected President Kennedy promised Americans would land on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. But it was Yuri Gagarin who was the first human to reach space in USSR’s Vostok spaceship.
Three years later Soviet Aleksey Leonov became the first astronaut to do a spacewalk for just twelve minutes.

The second response was a vast increase in science fiction books which depicted humanity’s future as we soared through space to colonise planets and to eventually fly to other stars. In that period in the 1960s we were convinced that space exploration would be a central part of our future and this seemed to be happening when finally, in 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to land on the Moon. Just two years later the USSR again achieved a triumph by landing the first ever probe on Mars.

In 1974, NASA launched Mariner 10 which became the first satellite to fly across the surface of Venus and Mercury. This was followed by flybys of Jupiter and Saturn, five years later by Voyager 1. But then it all seemed to be put on hold. The US had spent billions of dollars to land just twelve Americans on the Moon and no one has been back since 1972.

The emergence of China’s space program alongside Russia and America’s is having a big impact. China only sent its first astronaut into space back in 2003 but has now caught up with Russia and the US. But this seems to have triggered a paranoid mentality in America’s leadership, with President Trump creating a new space command for US armed forces as well as treating China as an economic and military rival.

The simple fact is China will soon overtake America as the world’s largest economy and then India will push the US into third place. The US has got to come to terms with this and co-operate with China as it does with Russia on space exploration.

As well as the cost of space exploration being a deterrent in recent decades there has also been a fear that radiation levels in space could kill astronauts on long journeys and there is also the problem of the lack of gravity.

When astronauts return to Earth after spending months in a satellite, they couldn’t walk and have to be carried off the spacecraft. But we know now that human bodies recover very quickly from these impacts and I believe it’s possible that in years to come we can invent mechanisms that protect astronauts from radiation and build large revolving spacecraft which would replicate Earth’s gravity. But the cost of all of this means nations have to collaborate and not operate as rivals. The US government spends just nineteen billion a year on its space budget which is just half of one percent of the federal budget. Back in the days of Kennedy, America was spending more than four percent of its budget on space exploration.

The threat to human life on our planet from climate change and the super volcanoes means that the only way humanity can survive is by spreading out to other worlds. So, let us hope the three superpowers co-operate in the years to come and accept India which is beginning to develop its own space program with launches planned for 2022.

In recent years national spaces agencies in 14 countries have cooperated and their most recent plan published just a year ago said they had agreed to “expand human presence into the solar system with the surface of Mars as a common driving goal.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.



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Why China's Over the Moon

15:37 05.01.2019

Finian Cunningham

China has not just made an historic landing on the moon. It has also given notice that the country is set to become a global leader in technology and science. And it is proving American trade disputes for the envious vandalism that they really are.

Earlier this week, China's national space agency celebrated the new year with a successful touchdown of an unmanned lunar probe. But unlike previous lunar landings by the United States and Russia, the Chang'e-4 module was able to navigate to the far side of the moon.

The so-called dark side of the moon — which never faces planet Earth — presents unique technical challenges because of communication problems. But the Chinese have done it. And the achievement is being hailed as "a new chapter in space exploration".

[Image: 1068975761.png]

While the US and Russia have been the leaders in space technology for several decades, it is China that can now claim to be taking up the mantle in cutting-edge exploration. These three countries are the only ones that have put rockets and astronauts into space using their own engineers and technology.

Last year, for the first time, China launched more space rockets than any other nation. It is reportedly planning to send another landing module to the far side of the moon later this year — Chang'e-5 — which will be able to take off from the moon's surface and return to Earth.

The timing of these space milestones could not be more appropriate.

In the coming days, an American political delegation is arriving in Beijing to try to overcome the looming trade war between the two economic giants. The Americans want China to make big concessions in terms of buying more US exports and imposing curbs on their hi-tech industries.

The trade war was launched by US President Donald Trump last year with punitive tariffs worth $300 billion slapped on Chinese exports. China has responded with its own counter-tariffs, and there are deep concerns that the dispute is damaging the global economy.

The Trump administration has justified its bruising trade sanctions on China with claims that Beijing's economic policies are "unfair" and that Chinese companies are involved in stealing American technology and abusing intellectual property rights. China rejects those accusations.

Trump's purported complaints against China are embarrassingly undermined by the successful Chinese moon landing this week.

The scientific and technological capability to pull off such a feat is mind-bending.

The New York Times quotes Zhu Menghua, a professor at Macau University of Science and Technology, as saying: "This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration. We, Chinese people, have done something that the Americans have not dared try."

Thus, the photographs of the dark side of the moon being relayed back to China's space agency speak more than thousands of words. Those images tell of China's immense scientific advances made under the political leadership of President Xi Jinping. It's the cheeky equivalent of: "Eh, what's that Donald about us stealing your technology?"

It's not just in space exploration either. China's planned economy, research and development is also reportedly breaking new ground in artificial intelligence, telecommunications, genetic engineering, and military missile systems. By contrast, American corporate capitalism has lost ground in nearly all areas.

The predicament of American tech giant Apple is allegorical. Its products are vastly overpriced and flatlining in innovation, while Chinese state-owned companies like Huawei are becoming market leaders with affordable, smarter devices that consumers are increasingly being won over by.

Not only are Trump's allegations of Chinese unfair trade and theft of technology spectacularly disproven by the historic moon landing this week, the denouement also reveals what the American trade war agenda is really about.

Washington is using trade tariffs and sanctions, as well as slanderous smearing, as weapons in order to illegitimately thwart China as a global rival. Unable to do it by fair means, the Americans are resorting to dirty tricks.

The Americans can't very well admit the plain truth — that their capitalist system is bankrupt and dysfunctional, and that they have lost their once-formidable innovative and technological energy. No, what the Americans must do is to disguise their diminishing strength by slandering perceived rivals: China and Russia in particular.

What Trump is trying to do is hobble and hamper China's economic and technological development through foul means. By claiming Chinese theft of American technology, Washington is aiming to crimp China with sanctions — sanctions that would otherwise be seen as blatantly illegal and warmongering.

The arrogant Americans can't face up to the fact that their days of global leadership are over — through their own squandering of economic resources, illegal wars and other injustices. They want to make China and Russia impose limits on their own rightful development in order to revitalize the moribund American economy.

This tawdry and dangerous American agenda of inciting global tensions with China and Russia is shown up for what it is by the historic moon landing this week.

No wonder that China is over the moon.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.



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