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May 21, 2018
A Long March-4C launch vehicle launched Queqiao (鹊桥, “Magpie Bridge”), the satellite relay for the Chang’e-4 lunar mission, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan Province, southwest China, on May 20, 2018, at 21:28 UTC (21 May, at 05:28 local time).
China on Monday launched a relay satellite to provide communications between the Earth and a small robot that should be deployed on the far side of the Moon in 2018, according to the Chinese Space Agency.
A Long March-4C rocket took off at 5:28 am local time (2128 GMT Sunday) from the Xichang launch pad (south-west) with the Queqiao satellite, which is currently continuing into space, on board. Chinese National Space Administration.
Upon the arrival of the remote-controlled robot on the Moon, the satellite will be at a place where it can exchange with the Earth, while having in its line of sight the hidden face of the Moon.
“This launch is a crucial step for China to become the first country to send a probe able to smoothly glide and explore the dark side of the moon,” said Zhang Lihua, head of the satellite project, quoted by the China New Agency.
The satellite will allow control by technicians left on Earth of the Chang’e-4 robot, which takes its name from a goddess of Chinese mythology.
Second remote controlled vehicle
The hidden face of the Moon refers to the hemisphere of the lunar body that is not visible from Earth. She has been photographed since 1959 but has never been explored.
The robot will be sent by the end of 2018 in the South Pole-Aitken basin, an area supposed to have great potential for research, according to new China.
It will be the second Chinese unmanned vehicle on the moon. In 2013, China had already landed a rover named “Jade Bunny”. He had had periods of coma, but had finally been able to survey the lunar surface for 31 months, well beyond its expected life.
Image above: An artist’s rendering of the Chang’e 4 satellite relaying data from a lander / rover combo on the moon’s far side. Image Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAST).
Another robot (Chang’e-5) is expected to be sent to the Moon in 2019 to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.
China invests billions of euros in its space program, coordinated by the army. The country hopes to have an inhabited space station by 2022, and eventually send humans to the moon.
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Images, Video, Text, Credits: CASC/SciNews/CAST/Xinhua/Günter Space Page/AFP/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.
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