Research

China's lunar lander, rover 'wake up' after first lunar night

China's lunar lander, rover 'wake up' after first lunar night

As a result of the tidal locking effect, the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, and it always faces Earth with the same side.

The 140 kg Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) rover awoke automatically around 1200 UTC on January 29 with the Chang'e-4 lander waking at 12:39 the next day, according to an update (Chinese) from the China Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP).

The difference between Chang'e 4's reading and the Apollo missions' is "probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon".

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).

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Chang'e 4 lunar probe launches from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

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. "We still need more careful analysis", Zhang added.

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.

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This is much colder than temperatures recorded by previous missions to the moon by the United States, which were limited to the moon's near side.

China's first lunar rover, the 2013 Chang'e-3 mission's Yutu, travelled just 114 metres before encountering an issue to ended the rover's mobility.

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

China has launched a ground-breaking mission to land a spacecraft on the largely unexplored far side of the moon, demonstrating its growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russian Federation, the European Union and the US. When lunar night fell, temperatures plummeted as low as -170°C and the plant's short life came to an end.

The probe will now continue with it´s experiments, CNSA said. These include the first "low frequency radio astronomy experiment", an investigation into whether plants can grow in a low gravity environment and if interaction between solar winters and the lunar surface exists.

NASA's Curiosity rover also adopts this power technology, freeing it from the sunshine, sand and dust restrictions that have affected its predecessors Opportunity and Spirit, he explained.