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What does China want to do on the Moon’s far side?

What will China’s Chang’e-4 mission learn about the far side of the Moon? Here are a few things the mission is designed to do.

Learn about the Moon’s history

No space mission has ever explored the far side from the surface. As such, it’s the first chance to explore a mysterious region of Earth’s natural satellite.

The “face” that’s never seen from Earth has some key differences to the more familiar “near side”. The far side has a thicker, older crust that is pocked with more craters. There are also very few of the “maria” (dark basaltic “seas” created by lava flows) that are evident on the near side.

Chang’e-4 has reportedly landed at a site known as Von Kármán crater, a 180km depression located in the far side’s southern hemisphere. But Von Kármán lies within a much bigger hole punched in the Moon – the South Pole-Aitken basin.

It’s the oldest, largest and deepest such basin on the Moon and formed when an asteroid – perhaps 500km across, or more – collided with it billions of years ago.

This event was so powerful that it is thought to have ploughed through the Moon’s outer crust layer and through into the zone known as the mantle.

One of the mission’s objectives is to study any exposed material from the mantle present at the landing site. This would provide insights into the internal structure and history of the Moon.

The South Pole-Aitken basin was formed by a giant impact billions of years ago

Indeed, data from orbiting spacecraft show that the composition of the basin is different from the surrounding lunar highlands. But exposed mantle material on the surface is just one possibility among several to explain this observation.

The rover will use its panoramic camera to identify interesting locations and its Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS) to study minerals in the floor of the crater (as well as of ejecta – rocks thrown out by nearby space impacts).

Additionally, the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) instrument will be able to look into the shallow subsurface of the Moon, down to a depth of about 100m. It could probe the thickness of the lunar regolith – the broken up rocks and dust that make up the surface – and shed light on the structure of the upper lunar crust.

After the huge impact that created the South Pole-Aitken basin, a large amount of melted rock would have filled the depression. The science team wants to use Chang’e-4 to identify and study variations in its composition.

Filling an astronomy gap

The far side of the Moon has long been regarded as an ideal spot for conducting a particular kind of radio astronomy – in the low-frequency band – because it’s shielded from the radio noise of Earth.

There’s a frequency band (below about 10MHz) where radio astronomy observations can’t be conducted from Earth, because of manmade radio interference and other, natural factors.

Chang’e-4’s lander is carrying an instrument called the Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS) which can make low frequency radio observations. It will be used in concert with a similar experiment on the Queqiao orbiting satellite.

Radio telescopes on the Moon would be able to observe at frequencies not accessible to arrays on Earth

The objectives include making a map of the radio sky at low frequencies and studying the behaviour of the Sun.

Speaking in 2016, Liu Tongjie, from the Chinese space agency (CNSA), said: “Since the far side of the Moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it’s an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can ‘listen’ to the deeper reaches of the cosmos.”

Thus, the mission will fill a gap in astronomical observation, allowing scientists to study cosmic phenomena in a way that has never been possible from our planet.

Radiation on the Moon

Understanding the radiation environment will be vital for future human exploration

Several space agencies want to land humans on the Moon in the not-too-distant future, and might send astronauts there for longer than we’ve ever stayed before. So understanding the potential risks from radiation are vital.

Earth’s thick atmosphere and strong magnetic field provide adequate shielding against galactic cosmic rays and energetic charged particles travelling from the Sun.

But astronauts on the Moon will be outside this protective bubble and exposed to particles travelling through open space at near the speed of light – with potentially damaging consequences for their health.

The Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND) experiment, supplied by researchers in Germany, will aim to fill in some gaps in our understanding about the lunar radiation environment.

It will provide dosimetry (measure the ionising radiation dose that could be absorbed by the human body) with a view to future exploration, and contribute to understanding of particles originating from the Sun.

Source www.bbc.co.uk

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NASA to return to the Moon by 2028 and make a sustainable colony

NASA is accelerating plans to return to the Moon by 2028 for the first time since 1972 and claim that they will be there ‘to stay’.

The aerospace agency’s head Jim Bridenstine said they plan to make the moon sustainable for humans so they can go back and forth regularly.

Commander Gene Cernan was the eleventh and last man to walk on the lunar surface during the Apollo 17 mission 47 years ago.

President Trump said in 2017 that he wants to return Americans to the lunar surface and establish a foundation there for an eventual mission to Mars.

As a way-station for trips to and from the lunar surface, NASA want to build a space station, dubbed Gateway, in the Moon’s orbit by 2026.

The plan is to have the next man on the moon by 2028 adding that it’s important that they get back ‘as fast as possible,’ he said at NASA’s Washington headquarters.

‘This time, when we go to the Moon, we’re actually going to stay. We’re not going to leave flags and footprints and then come home to not go back for another 50 years.

‘We’re doing it entirely different than every other country in the world. What we’re doing is, we’re making it sustainable so you can go back and forth regularly with humans.’

Although to make all this as process as quick as possible, Mr Bridenstine said that the agency wishes to work with private space companies.

Before humans return, NASA aims to land an unmanned vehicle on the Moon by 2024 and are now inviting bids from the private sector to build the probe.

They have pitched for ventures to build hardware, according to a document called the Broad Agency Announcement, a notice from the government that requests scientific proposals from private firms.

Continue Reading: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

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Richard Branson to fly into space in JULY aboard his Virgin Galactic spaceship.

Richard Branson claims he wants to travel to space within the next four or five months aboard his Virgin Galactic spaceship.

The British entrepreneur says that he hopes to make his first voyage
coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969.

He also claims that the spaceflight company are still on target to send
tourists into on short ‘suborbital’ flights by the end of next year.

Speaking at an event in Washington, he said: ‘My wish is to go up on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, that’s what we’re working on.’.

The American Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20th, 1969.

British billionaire Richard Branson, pictured here, plans to travel to space within the next four or five months aboard his own Virgin Galactic spaceship. Virgin Galactic is one of two companies, along with Blue Origin, on its way to sending passengers into space 

Earlier this year, the 69-year-old said he is training hard for the mission, and told CBS that his ‘aim is to have the body of a 30-year-old’ when he goes to space.

Virgin Galactic is working along with Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk’s SpaceX company towards the same goal of being the first to send passengers into space ‘by 2020’ in a new type of race dubbed the ‘billionaire space race’.

The companies want to send people on these short suborbital flights, meaning they wouldn’t get high enough to orbit the earth.

Branson has previously announced dates for this first trip into space, though many have gone by without voyages happening.

In 2013, he declared on a radio station that a Virgin Galactic space flight will be on Christmas Day 2013, and he will be on board. ‘Maybe I’ll dress up as Father Christmas,’ he joked.

Christmas day 2013 came and went without this flight or a sighting of the billionaire in a Santa suit taking place.

In October 2017, he told a Finnish business conference that the craft would be in space in ‘about three months’.

Continue Reading: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

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New mission to explore origins of the cosmos

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An artist’s impression of the SPHEREx spacecraft. 

NASA is planning to launch a new near-infrared space observatory that will collect data on 300 million galaxies.

Known as SPHEREx (Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer), the new spacecraft has been awarded $242 million in funds and will launch in 2023.

Its goal will be to help scientists gain a better understanding of how the universe evolved over time and to determine how common the core ingredients of life are in our own galaxy.

“This amazing mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

“It will deliver an unprecedented galactic map containing ‘fingerprints’ from the first moments in the universe’s history. And we’ll have new clues to one of the greatest mysteries in science: What made the universe expand so quickly less than a nanosecond after the big bang ?”

Source: Astronomy Now

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