Tuesday June 18, 2019
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Chinese Spacecraft Lands On The Far Side of the Moon

China plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples, the first time that will have been done since the Soviet mission in 1976.

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A worker inspects a scale model of the moon rover for China's Chang'e 4 lunar probe, at a factory in Dongguan, Guangdong province, China. VOA

A Chinese spacecraft Thursday made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon in the latest achievement for the country’s growing space program.

The relatively unexplored far side of the moon faces away from Earth and is also known as the dark side.

A photo taken by the lunar explorer Chang’e 4 at 11:40 a.m. and published online by the official Xinhua News Agency shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the probe.

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A moon is seen behind the construction site of China Zun in Beijing’s central business area. VOA

Chang’e 4 touched down on the surface at 10:26 a.m., the China National Space Administration said. The landing was announced by state broadcaster China Central Television at the top of its noon news broadcast.

Growing ambitions in space

The landing highlights China’s growing ambitions as a space power. In 2013, Chang’e 3, the predecessor craft to the current mission, made the first moon landing since the then-Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976. The United States is the only other country that has carried out moon landings.

The work of Chang’e 4, which is carrying a rover, includes carrying out astronomical observations and probing the structure and mineral composition of the terrain.

“The far side of the moon is a rare quiet place that is free from interference of radio signals from Earth,” mission spokesman Yu Guobin said, according to Xinhua. “This probe can fill the gap of low-frequency observation in radio astronomy and will provide important information for studying the origin of stars and nebula evolution.”

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The Moon. Pixabay

Communicating

One challenge of operating on the far side of the moon is communicating with Earth. China launched a relay satellite in May so that Chang’e 4 can send back information.

Also Read: President of Taiwan Rebuffs China, Defends Self-Rule

China plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples, the first time that will have been done since the Soviet mission in 1976.

A Long March 3B rocket carrying Chang’e 4 blasted off Dec. 8 from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southern China. Chang’e is the name of a Chinese goddess who, according to legend, has lived on the moon for millennia. (VOA)

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NASA: Sending Back Astronauts to Moon in 2024 Could Cost About $30 Billion

The entire project will be framed as a practice run for a future mission to Mars

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NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo's twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024. VOA

Returning astronauts to the moon in 2024 could cost about $30 billion, or roughly the same price tag as the Apollo 11 spaceflight when factoring in inflation, NASA has said.

“For the whole programme, to get a sustainable presence on the moon, we’re looking at between $20 and $30 billion,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a TV interview on Friday, though noting that that figure does not include money already spent on the rocket and space capsule the agency plans to use for the programme, Efe news reported.

The total cost of the Apollo programme that the US launched in 1961 and concluded in 1972 was $25 billion. The climax of that programme came nearly 50 years ago when two astronauts landed on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission, which cost $6 billion at the time, equivalent to $30 billion today.

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Then one male astronaut and – for the first time – a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024. Pixabay

NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo’s twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024.

Bridenstine recalled that the main difference between the Apollo programme and the Artemis program is that the former culminated with brief stays on the moon while the latter will entail a permanent human presence there.

The plan will involve the recruitment of private companies and international partners, the construction of a lunar space station and manned landings at the moon’s south pole within five years.

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That rocket will send into orbit a new spacecraft known as Orion, whose lead contractor is Lockheed Martin. VOA

The entire project will be framed as a practice run for a future mission to Mars. The programme includes an unmanned mission around the moon in 2020 and a manned mission that also will orbit the moon two years later. Then one male astronaut and – for the first time – a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024.

ALSO READ: NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover, Latest Robotic Mission to Explore Ancient Life on Red Planet

The three lunar missions will be delivered into space by the Space Launch System, a rocket being developed by NASA and Boeing that will be the largest ever built once it is fully assembled. That rocket will send into orbit a new spacecraft known as Orion, whose lead contractor is Lockheed Martin.

Besides these missions exclusively handled by NASA, five other launches will be carried out to place in lunar orbit the components for construction of the Gateway mini-space station, which will serve as a staging post for moon landings. Those five missions between 2022 and 2024 will be operated by private companies, according to NASA’s plans. (IANS)