February 21, 2019

Chinese Probe Records Minus 310-Degree Temps on the Moon

02 February 2019, 02:16 | Dale Webster

Chang'e 4 checks out the far side of the moon. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation

Chang'e 4 checks out the far side of the moon.                  China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation

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.

China landed its Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit", rover on the moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe there next year and have it return to Earth with samples - the first time that will have been done since 1976.

The two instruments successfully withstood the test of the extremely low-temperature environment on the far side of the Moon.

The country made history on January 3 when the Chang'e 4 lunar probe landed in Von Karman crater on the moon's mysterious far side.

The Chang'e-4 probe recorded lunar night temperatures that reached minus 310 degrees, Xinhua reported.

China's Chang'e-4 probe, launched on Dec 8 in 2018, landed on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon on Jan 3. Previously, the Chinese scientists had no data on exactly how cold it could be.

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

A lunar day equals 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is the same length.

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. When lunar night fell, temperatures plummeted as low as -170°C and the plant's short life came to an end.

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

The scientific tasks of the Chang'e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring neutron radiation and neutral atoms. "It was really thrilling", said Li Chunlai, deputy director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China and commander-in-chief of the ground application system of Chang'e-4.

"It is a technology that we must master if we want to go to the moon's polar regions or farther than Jupiter into deep space, where solar power can not be used as the primary power source", he 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.

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