Moon's far side captured by NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). Credit: NOAA/NASA


Moon’s far side captured by NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).
Credit: NOAA/NASA

China has a stated interest to send a lander to the Moon’s far side – the Chang’e-4 (CE-4) mission.

New details about possible instruments of CE-4 are to be detailed in a forthcoming conference on Moon exploration.

Y.L. Zou and colleagues from the Key Laboratory of Lunar and Deep Space Exploration in Beijing are on the agenda of the Fourth European Lunar Symposium to be held May 18-19 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Propositional payloads

The CE-4 scientific objectives are anchored to a lander, a rover, and use of a telecommunication relay that will be sent to the Earth–Moon L2 Lagrange point.

China's Yutu lunar rover took this image of Change'3 lander. New lunar landers are being readied for China's next step in Moon exploration. Credit: NAOC/Chinese Academy of Sciences

China’s Yutu lunar rover took this image of Change’3 lander. New lunar landers are being readied for China’s next step in Moon exploration.
Credit: NAOC/Chinese Academy of Sciences

CE-4 would be launched toward the Moon in about 2018. The weight of payloads onboard the lander total about 77 pounds (35 kilograms) and 37 pounds (17 kilograms) on the rover.

CE-4 mission “propositional payloads” involve six on the lander, five payloads on the rover, and one payload on the telecommunication relay orbiter.

Objectives

The researchers report that the scientific objectives of CE-4 are many, including:

  • Study the characteristics and the formation mechanism of lunar surface floating dust;
  • To measure lunar surface temperature, analyzing its change with time and in different light conditions;
  • Measure the chemical compositions of lunar rocks and soils and study their distribution;
  • Carry out lunar surface low-frequency radio astronomical observation and research;
  • Identify the structure of cosmic rays, and to find the possible original position for these cosmic rays;
  • Observe the independent kilometer wave burst event from the high layer of the solar corona, investigate its radiation characteristics and mechanism, and to explore the evolution and transport of coronal mass ejection (CME) between the Sun and Earth.

Radio astronomy station

Once on the Moon, the lander would use cameras, a dust-analyzer, and other instruments.

Firmly footed on the bleak lunar terrain, the lander would also become a far side radio astronomical station, staging low, mid and high-frequency sweeps of space from the lunar surface.

China’s Chang’e 3 Moon lander, imaged by Yutu lunar rover. It reportedly continues to serve as an astronomical observation outpost. Credit: NAOC

China’s Chang’e 3 Moon lander, imaged by Yutu lunar rover. It reportedly continues to serve as an astronomical observation outpost.
Credit: NAOC

Along with other devices, the Chinese lunar rover is expected to be equipped with ground penetrating radar.

Probing look at lunar ionosphere

In related Moon research, another paper to be presented at the meeting details probing of the lunar ionosphere. This investigation made use of a service module now in lunar orbit. That module was a component of China’s circumlunar return and reentry initiative that occurred in late 2014.

The circumlunar return and reentry spacecraft – commonly tagged as Chang’e 5-T1 — was launched on October 23, 2014 and nine days later the return vehicle landed at Inner Mongolia successfully. The service module performed a divert maneuver to avoid re-entry and moved to the Earth-Moon L2 point (EML2).

After releasing a test return capsule to Earth, the solar-powered service module first loitered at Earth-Moon L2 and then moved into orbit around the Moon. Credit: CCTV/China Space Website

After releasing a test return capsule to Earth, the solar-powered service module first loitered at Earth-Moon L2 and then moved into orbit around the Moon.
Credit: CCTV/China Space Website

That module remained at that location until January 4, 2015 then conducted a departure maneuver to leave EML2 and begin a transition into lunar orbit. The module arrived on January 11, 2015 in lunar orbit and then lowered closer to the Moon. It imaged the target landing zone for the 2017 Chinese lunar sample return mission – Chang’e 5 – a touchdown site which has yet to be disclosed.

Radio occultation finding

“During this period, we performed the radio occultation experiment to detect the lunar ionosphere,” notes M. Y. Wang of China’s National Astronomical Observatories.

Illustration of the service module of the circumlunar return and reentry spacecraft  mission used for a radio occultation experiment. Credit: M. Y. Wang/National Astronomical Observatories.

Illustration of the service module of the
circumlunar return and reentry spacecraft mission used for a radio occultation experiment.
Credit: M. Y. Wang/National Astronomical Observatories.

The observation confirms the presence of a large ionosphere surrounding the Moon, and data was collected on the total electron content, M.Y. Wang and his research colleagues report.

They add in their abstract for the upcoming meeting: “In the future, we will perform more observation and work on the lunar ionosphere and its distribution characteristics.”

One Response to “China’s Lunar Far Side Mission: Scientific Goals Outlined”

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