Beijing, Jan 5 (AP/UNB) — All systems are go as a Chinese spacecraft and rover power up their observation equipment after making a first-ever landing on the far side of the moon, the Chinese National Space Administration said.
The Jade Rabbit 2 rover has succeeded in establishing a digital transmission link with a relay satellite that sends data back to the Beijing control center, the space agency said in a posting late Friday on its website.
The rover's radar and panoramic camera have been activated and are working normally, it said. A photo released by the agency showed the rover stopped at a point not far from where the Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down Thursday.
Chang'e 4, named after a Chinese moon goddess, is the first craft to make a soft landing on the moon's far side, which faces away from Earth. Previous landings, including one by China's Chang'e 3 in 2013, have been on the near side.
After sending the rover off from a ramp, the spacecraft deployed three 5-meter (16-foot) low-frequency radio antennas, the Chinese space agency said. Chang'e 4 also has sent back images taken with a topographical camera.
Researchers hope that low-frequency observations of the cosmos from the far side, where radio signals from Earth are blocked by the moon, will help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and even the birth of the universe's first stars.
Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb noted, however, that the relay satellite needed to send back information from the far side also contaminates the sky.
"As long as we keep it clean of radio interference, the far side of the moon is very good for radio astronomy," he said.
The far side has been observed many times from lunar orbits, but never explored on the surface. It is popularly called the "dark side" because it can't be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.
"It's just the far side, it can be either dark or light," Loeb said, depending on the time of day.
The pioneering landing highlights China's ambitions to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space. Both China's space community and public have taken pride in the accomplishment, with some drawing comparisons to the United States.
China's space program lags America's, but has made great strides in the past 15 years, including manned flights and a space laboratory that is seen as a precursor to plans for a space station.
Beijing, Jan 3 (AP/UNB) — A Chinese spacecraft on Thursday made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon, state media said.
The lunar explorer Chang'e 4 touched down at 10:26 a.m., China Central Television said in a brief announcement at the top of its noon news broadcast.
The far side of the moon faces away from Earth and is relatively unexplored. It is also known as the dark side of the moon.
The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power. In 2013, Chang'e 3 was the first spacecraft to land on the moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976.
The mission of Chang'e 4, which is carrying a rover, includes carrying out low-frequency radio astronomical observations and probing the structure and mineral composition of the terrain.
The Long March 3B rocket carrying Chang'e 4 blasted off on Dec. 8 from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southern China.
In May, a relay satellite "Queqiao," or "Magpie Bridge," named after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang'e 4 and Earth.
China plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples — the first time that will have been done since 1976.
Laurel, Jan 2 (AP/UNB) -NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has survived humanity's most distant exploration of another world.
Ten hours after the middle-of-the-night encounter 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away, flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, received word from the spacecraft late Tuesday morning. Cheers erupted at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, home to Mission Control.
An anxious spill-over crowd in a nearby auditorium joined in the loud celebration.
New Horizons zoomed past the small celestial object known as Ultima Thule 3 ½ years after its spectacular brush with Pluto. Scientists say it will take nearly two years for New Horizons to beam back all its observations of Ultima Thule, a full billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto. At that distance, it takes six hours for the radio signals to reach Earth.
A NASA spacecraft opens the new year at the most distant world ever explored, a billion miles beyond Pluto.
Flight controllers say everything looked good for New Horizons' flyby of the tiny, icy object at 12:33 a.m. Tuesday, 3 ½ years after its encounter with Pluto. Confirmation won't come for hours, though, given the vast distance. The mysterious target nicknamed Ultima Thule (TOO-lee) is 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from Earth.
Scientists want New Horizons observing Ultima Thule, not phoning home. So they won't know until late morning whether the spacecraft survived.
With New Horizons on autopilot, Mission Control at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, was empty. Instead, team members and their guests gathered nearby for back-to-back countdowns at midnight and again 33 minutes later.
Queen guitarist Brian May, who also happens to be an astrophysicist, joined the team at Johns Hopkins for a midnight premiere of the song he wrote for the big event.
Laurel, Jan 1 (AP/UNB) — A NASA spacecraft has gone into orbit around an ancient asteroid, setting a pair of records.
The Osiris-Rex spacecraft entered orbit Monday around the asteroid Bennu, 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) from Earth. It's the smallest celestial body ever to be orbited by a spacecraft. Bennu is just 1,600 feet (500 meters) across.
The spacecraft's laps are barely a mile (1.6 kilometers) above the asteroid's surface, another record.
Osiris-Rex arrived at Bennu in early December and flew in formation with it until the latest maneuver. The goal is to grab gravel samples in 2020 for return to Earth in 2023.
The New Year's Eve milestone occurred just hours before another NASA explorer, New Horizons, was set to fly past an icy space rock beyond Pluto.
Cape Canaveral, Dec 21 (AP/UNB) — NASA's new Mars lander has placed a quake monitor on the planet's dusty red surface, just a few weeks after its arrival.
Mars InSight 's robotic arm removed the seismometer from the spacecraft deck and set it on the ground Wednesday to monitor Mars quakes.
Project manager Tom Hoffman called the milestone "an awesome Christmas present."
It's the first time a robotic arm has lowered an experiment onto the Martian surface. The ground is slightly tilted, and so flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, still need to make the seismometer level.
The French dome-shaped seismometer is a little over 5 feet (1.6 meters) in front of the stationary lander, about as far as the arm can reach.
Next month, InSight's arm will put a wind cover over the seismometer and set down another experiment. The heat probe, dubbed the mole, will burrow up to 16 feet (5 meters) into Mars to measure internal temperatures.
"Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars," JPL's Bruce Banerdt, lead scientist, said in a statement. It's needed to "complete about three-quarters of our science objectives."
Banerdt plans to open a bottle of Champagne once seismic measurements start rolling in.
InSight landed on Mars on Nov. 26.