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China's Chang'e 4 lunar mission completes 1,000 days on Moon

China's Chang'e 4 lunar mission completes 1,000 days on Moon

Image: iStock

Beijing, Oct 6

China's historic lunar mission Chang'e 4 has completed 1,000 Earth days on the far side of the Moon, the media reported.

The Chang'e 4 lander carrying the Yutu 2 rover touched down in Von Karman Crater on January 2, 2019 and completed the 1,000-days-on-the-Moon mark on September 28, the Space.com reported.

The Yutu 2 rover has covered a total of 839.37 metres of lunar ground and acquired 3,632.01 gigabytes of data during its driving, Chinese officials have said.

Together, the two spacecraft have returned stunning images and panoramas from the lunar far side, revealed secrets from below the surface, measured how much radiation astronauts would face, and have been spotted by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Yutu 2 has set a new longevity record for a rover working on the surface of the Moon, surpassing the previous record of 321 days set by the Soviet Union's robotic Lunokhod 1 rover. It is now headed toward a distant basaltic area, but it may take years to reach the new site, the report said.

Despite dealing with alternating deep cold and searing heat of lunar nights and days, intense solar radiation and abrasive lunar regolith, Chang'e 4, named after the Chinese goddess of the Moon, and Yutu 2 ("Jade Rabbit 2"), the mythical pet rabbit of Chang'e, are still working well, as are their scientific instruments, according to the China Lunar Exploration Programme.

The solar-powered spacecraft regularly shut down during the lunar night, each of which lasts about 14.5 Earth days. The pair began their 35th lunar day on September 29.

The satellite that allows the Chang'e 4 mission to communicate with Earth is also healthy. The Queqiao ("Magpie Bridge") relay satellite was launched in 2018 to orbit around a point beyond the Moon, from where it can see both the lunar far side and Earth at all times.

Queqiao is needed to bounce data and commands between the spacecraft on the Moon and mission control because the lunar far side never faces Earth.

Chang'e 4 was originally designed as a backup to Chang'e 3 and would have provided a second shot at a lunar landing and rover mission if the first failed. Chang'e 4 was repurposed for a more ambitious mission after the successful 2013 landing of Chang'e 3.

The first Yutu rover lost its ability to drive after just two lunar days due to a short circuit. Yutu 2 was redesigned to prevent rocks damaging its circuitry and has proved much more durable.

China launched its first lunar sample return mission in late 2020. The Chang'e 5 mission successfully delivered 3.816 pounds (1.731 kilograms) of fresh lunar samples to Earth in December. The country will follow up by sending Chang'e 6 to collect samples from the far side of the Moon in 2024, the report said. IANS

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