Thursday, 3 January 2019

chang'e

Via Slashdot, we learn that the Chinese space agency has successfully landed a probe, Chang’e 4, on the dark side of the Moon. Because of the impossibility to communicate directly with the lander, a relay satellite called Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) is orbiting the Moon and can exchange readings and instructions with mission control on each pass.
The landing site, the Von Kármán lunar crater, was a practical location as well as one with an important symbolic message, as the Hungarian-American astrophysicist and polymath Theodore von Kármán, its namesake, was the academic advisor of Hsue-Shen Tsien (*1911 – †2009), the rocket scientist and cyberneticist who founded the Chinese space programme. Though previously studied and charted, this hemisphere of the Moon that is tidally-locked and always faces away from the Earth has never been the subject on direct exploration and this achievement is in follow-up to the Chang’e 3 mission and its Jade Rabbit Rover (read more about Chinese lunar mythology and its connection with the space missions here)—paving the wave for permanent human colonisation by 2030.