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China’s lunar probe makes history by successfully soft-landing on the far side of the moon

It’s not Lunar New Year yet, but there is something new on the moon. In a major milestone for space exploration, China announced that its lunar program has successfully soft-landed a probe on the far side of the moon, making it the first one to do so. The historic landing was reported by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, earlier today.

According to the China National Space Administration, the probe, consisting of a lander and rover, touched down at about 10:26AM Beijing time. This is the first ever soft-landing (meaning a landing without damage or destruction to the space vehicle) on the far side of the moon, which is never visible from Earth. Named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e-4 launched on Dec. 8 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province.

China’s Chang’e-4 probe softlands on Moon’s far side pic.twitter.com/Z1R6tbpBMI

— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) January 3, 2019

The South China Morning Post reported earlier this week that the Chang’e-4 will be used for “astronomical observation using low-frequency radio, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring neutron radiation and neutral atoms.” The successful soft-landing is important for space exploration because there is relatively little information about the far side of the moon compared to the side visible from Earth, which has been explored and surveyed by previous missions.

Photographs taken by earlier spacecraft, including the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 and Zond 3 (launched in 1959 and 1965, respectively) and NASA’s Lunar Orbiter program (launched in 1966), found significant differences between the far side’s terrain and the surface of the moon visible from Earth. In 1962, NASA’s Ranger 4 probe became the first spacecraft to impact on the moon, but was unable to send back data after landing.

Since direct communication between Chang’e-4 and Earth is blocked because of the probe’s position, China also launched a relay satellite called Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, that is currently 400,000 km above Earth, positioned between it and the moon.

Chang’e-4’s successful landing concludes the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP). The first phase was the launch of Yutu, the lunar rover of Chang’e-3, which landed on the moon in December 2013, but stopped moving after 40 days due to a mechanical problem (it is still able to transmit data and photos, including true color high-definition photos). The successful landing of Chang’e-3 was another a significant milestone for China’s space program, making it only the third country after the U.S. and Soviet Union to soft-land on the moon. After Chang’e-4, the third and final phase of CLEP will be a returnable spacecraft called Chang’e-5. Set to launch by 2020, Chang’e-5 will be used to collect samples.

Trump's nominee for NASA administrator is really into the moon

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James Bridenstine is ready to take America back to the moon. 

With Donald Trump’s Friday announcement that he intends to nominate the Oklahoma representative as administrator of NASA, Bridenstine is one step closer to his moon dreams.

Rep. Bridenstine is already on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and has been gunning for the head boss role at NASA. The position has been open since Trump’s inauguration with acting administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. serving in the role. 

The long wait on a nomination for NASA administrator could end as soon as Tuesdayhttps://t.co/jhnYEA7ccP

— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) September 1, 2017 Read more…

More about Space, Nasa, Donald Trump, Moon, and Space Travel

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A private space company you probably don't know has enough money to land on the moon

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A private company you probably haven’t heard of just announced that it has the money it needs to shoot for the moon, literally.

Moon Express — one of the teams competing to win the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize — says that it has now raised enough money to build, test and launch its uncrewed MX-1E spacecraft to the lunar surface before the end of this year. 

“We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the moon,” Moon Express CEO Bob Richards said in a statement. 

In total, the company has raised more than $45 million in private funding for its moonshot. Read more…

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