China’s Chang’e-4 probe wakes up after first lunar night

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

Earth's moon is tidally locked to the planet, meaning that the same side of the moon faces us at all times.

"The far side of the moon has unique features, and has never been explored on site, so Chang'e-4 might bring us breakthrough findings", said Zou Yongliao, director of the lunar and deep space exploration division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This is the first time Chinese scientists have received first-hand data about the temperatures on the surface of the moon during the lunar night.

China's lunar lander has woken from a freezing fortnight-long hibernation to find night-time temperatures on the moon's dark side are colder than previously thought, the national space agency said yesterday.

The probe reported nighttime temperatures that were much colder than expected: as low as minus 190 degrees Celsius, the China National Space Administration (SNSA) said Thursday.

Both the lander and the rover came out of dormant mode automatically, waking up after noting the elevation angle of the sunlight now available at Von Kármán Crater, which is part of the huge South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The Chinese Chang'e-4 lunar mission is returning data again after a scheduled two-week rest period. "We still need more careful analysis", Zhang added.

But day also carries the risk of correspondingly high temperatures.

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

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'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.

By landing on the dark side of the moon and successfully growing plants, China has made clear its ambition to become one of the world's major superpowers in space exploration.

They were put to sleep as night fell roughly two weeks ago.

Yutu-2 will continue to rove and explore, analysing the variations of composition of the lunar surface and SPA melt sheet with the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), examine the subsurface with the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and provide insight into the space environment and interactions with the surface with the Advanced Small Analyser for Neutrals (ASAN) developed in Sweden.

"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.

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