Chinese Lander Discovers Lunar Night Colder Than Anticipated

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The Chinese lander Chang'e 4 and its rover, Yutu 2 (Jade Rabbit 2), woke from dormant, power-saving modes at the end of January and beamed back data suggesting that temperatures there had plummeted to minus 310 F (minus 190 C), according to an Agence France-Presse report. However, "this is the first time humans have done biological growth experiments on the lunar surface", said Professor Xie Gengxin, who led the design of the experiment. 'That's probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon, ' CNSA's Zhang He told Xinhua. The probe, comprising a lander and a rover, landed at the preselected landing area at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude on the far side of the moon at 10:26 a.m. Beijing Time (0226 GMT), the China National Space Administration announced.

One of the challenges with landing on the side of the moon that does not face Earth is that direct communication with Earth is not possible, thus requiring an intermediary satellite.

China's Chang'e-4 lunar lander was awakened by sunlight at 20:39 BJT on Wednesday to continue its mission on the far side of the Moon.

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The moon is tidally locked in its orbit around the Earth, meaning that it does not spin on its axis the way the Earth does, creating typical day-night cycles.

The Caribbean Astronomy Society experts also explained that "extreme temperatures are experienced on the dark side of the Moon". Previously, the Chinese scientists had no data on exactly how cold it could be.

The lander, which returned mesmeric footage of the landing, will begin observations with the low‐frequency radio spectrometer (LFS) while the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND) instrument developed in Germany will measure levels of radiation and seek to detect evidence of water.

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"According to the measurements of Chang'e-4, the temperature of the shallow layer of the lunar soil on the far side of the Moon is lower than the data obtained by the US Apollo mission on the near side of the Moon", said Zhang He, Executive Director of the Chang'e-4 probe project.

The rover and the lander carried the radioisotope heat source, which helped keep the probe warm during the lunar night.

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.

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Named after the goddess of the moon in Chinese legends, Chang'e 4 is the fourth lunar probe launched by China since the country's lunar programme was launched in 2004.