“Far, Silent Side of the Moon” –Upcoming NASA and China Missions to “Fill a Void” in Our Knowledge of the Universe

 

 

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China’s increasingly ambitious space program plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon’s far side. Radio transmissions from Earth are unable to reach the moon’s far side, making it an excellent location for sensitive instruments.The Chang’e 4 mission is planned for sometime before 2020, according to Zou Yongliao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ in an interview with China’s state broadcaster CCTV.


Zou said the mission’s objective would be to study geological conditions on the moon’s far side, also known as the dark side. That could eventually lead to the placement of a radio telescope for use by astronomers, something that would help “fill a void” in man’s knowledge of the universe, Zou said.

 

                                        

China’s next lunar mission is scheduled for 2017, when it will attempt to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon before returning to Earth with samples. If successful, that would make China only the third country after the United States and Russia to have carried out such a maneuver.

China’s lunar exploration program, named Chang’e after a mythical goddess, has already launched a pair of orbiting lunar probes, and in 2013 landed a craft on the moon with a rover onboard.

China has also hinted at a possible crewed mission to the moon. China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and has powered ahead with a series of methodically timed steps, including the deploying of an experimental space station.

This July, NASA announced that a University of Colorado Boulder research team — led by Jack Burns of the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR) — is working on a radio telescope array that would be unfurled on the far side of the moon by an unmanned rover operated by astronauts in NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which would be hovering in a gravitationally stable spot near the lunar far side called Earth-moon Lagrange Point 2.

Burn’s team is evaluating how a small rover can spool out lengthy pieces of Kapton film on the lunar far side that would serve serve as a  lightweight backbone for an array of low-frequency antennas that could be deployed by a simple rover, Burns said. The “arms” would be stretched out, free of the constant radio-frequency interference coming from Earth, allowing NASA scientists to study the formation of the first stars and black holes, among other cosmic phenomena.

The moon rover plans were presented during the NASA Exploration Science Forum, which was held July 21 through July 23 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. The conference was organized by the Ames-based Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI).

The Daily Galaxy via BEIJING (AP), space.com  and cbsnews.com

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