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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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Intel and Cray Collaborate With U.S. Government, Aims for Nation’s Fastest Computer

The world's current most powerful machine, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp. and Nvidia.

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Intel
This Jan. 1, 2018, file photo shows an Intel logo on the box containing an HP desktop computer on sale at a Costco in Pittsburgh. VOA

A U.S. government-led group is working with chipmaker Intel and Cray to develop and build the nation’s fastest computer by 2021 for conducting nuclear weapons and other research, officials said Monday.

The Department of Energy and the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago said they were working on a supercomputer dubbed Aurora with Intel, the world’s biggest supplier of data center chips, and Cray, which specializes in the ultra-fast machines.

The $500 million contract for the project calls on the companies to deliver a computer with so-called exaflop performance — that is, being able to perform 1 quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.

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It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers. VOA

If the project succeeds, Aurora would represent nearly an order of magnitude leap over existing machines that feature so-called petaflop performance, capable of doing 1 quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) calculations a second.

It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers.

One of Aurora’s primary functions would be simulating nuclear blasts, a pillar of weapons development since the ban of live detonation testings.

Aurora will be built with artificial intelligence capabilities for projects such as developing better battery materials and helping the Department of Veterans Affairs prevent suicides, Rick Stevens, an associate lab director with Argonne overseeing the exascale computing project, said during a news
briefing.

The project is a win for Intel, which will supply its Xeon CPU chips and Optane memory chips for Aurora.

FILE - The Nvidia booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2017.
The Nvidia booth is shown at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2017. VOA

Intel has been fending off rival U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp.’s rise in the chip content of supercomputers as the machines take on more artificial intelligence work. Nvidia’s chips are found in five of the world’s current top 10 supercomputers, though the Nvidia chips are found alongside chips from its rivals, according to TOP500, which ranks the machines.

The world’s current most powerful machine, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp. and Nvidia.

The source of chips for supercomputers has become a factor in trade tensions between the United States and China. The world’s third-fastest supercomputer — the Sunway TaihuLight in China — has chips developed domestically in China.

Also Read: U.S. Tariffs on China Could Remain Same, Even After Reaching The Trade Deal

Chirag Dekate, an analyst with Gartner who studies the supercomputing market, said that despite the small contract size relative to Intel’s overall revenue, the work done on Aurora will eventually filter down to the company’s commercial customers.

“It’s not just a jingoistic race between the U.S. and China,” Dekate said. “The innovations that Intel is developing here will percolate down to other parts of its business.” (VOA)