TestChina's Chang'e-4 probe wakes up after first lunar night

Katie Ramirez
February 2, 2019

The rover and the lander of the Chang'e-4 probe have been awakened by sunlight after a long "sleep" during the first extremely cold night on the moon, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

It takes the moon 27 days to rotate; it also takes the same amount of time for the moon to orbit around the Earth once. The Chang'e-4 lunar probe, which descended into the Von Karman crater on January 3rd, detected sub-zero temperatures of minus 310 degrees Fahrenheit (about -190 degrees Celsius).

New observations from the Chang'e-4, the Chinese lunar lander which successfully landed on the far side of the moon last month, show that nighttime temperatures on the far side are much colder than originally thought.

This was the first time Chinese scientists received a first-hand data about the temperatures on the surface of the far side of the Moon during the lunar night, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday. Instead, the same side of the moon always faces Earth, and the far side has been hidden from view for all of human history. "We still need more careful analysis", Zhang added.

They were lower than those recorded by previous USA missions to the near side of the moon, Zhang He, executive director of the Chang´e-4 mission, told Xinhua news agency.

Temperatures vary enormously between day and night on the moon.

The Chinese Chang'e-4 lunar mission is returning data again after a scheduled two-week rest period.

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Scientific instruments on board China´s previous Chang´e-3 moon mission, sent in late 2013, have withstood over 60 lunar nights and are still in operation, Xinhua said.

In other words, something about the lunar dirt where Chang'e 4 sits is probably causing the soil to retain less heat overnight than the Apollo landing sites did.

NASA said it discussed in the past month with China to explore the possibility of observing a signature of the landing plume of Chang'e-4, as in a manner similar to what was done for Chang'e-3.

The measurement of the temperature changes between the day and night on the moon will help scientists estimate the properties of the lunar soil, said Zhang.

Both the lander and rover used radioisotope heater units (RHU) to protect against the deep cold of the lunar night.

The probe will now continue with its experiments, CNSA said.

The lander was also equipped with an isotope thermoelectric cell and dozens of temperature data collectors to measure the temperatures on the surface of the moon during the lunar night.

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