Executive Intelligence Review


China’s Lunar Far Side Mission To Conduct Radio Astronomy Experiments

March 3, 2018 (EIRNS)—China has released more detail about its Chang’e-4 mission to the lunar far side. The first launch of the two-spacecraft mission in May or June, which is a small communications relay satellite, will give two small science satellites a lift to the Moon. As Andrew Jones reported March 1 for GBTimes multimedia, they will conduct a test of radio astronomy from lunar orbit and also carry out space-based interferometry. These are small test satellites, because, explained Chen Xuelei, of the National Astronomical Observatory of China:

“As there are many limits on the preparation time, payload mass, power and communications bandwidth, the present mission is more an experiment, but what we learn from this could be very useful for the design of future missions.”

The two “Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths Pathfinder” test satellites will “give us the opportunity to [take] the first peek of the heavens in this frequency range,” away from the electromagnetically noisy Earth, said Chen. In addition to tasks carried out by each satellite, the two will fly in formation and at variable distances, testing space-based interferometry. Radio waves collected from the same celestial source by each of the satellites are matched up, producing a higher-resolution images than could be obtained with one instrument.

Before the end of the year, the Chang’e-4 lander will launch, and is expected to make history, in the first landing of a spacecraft on the non-Earth-facing far side of the Moon.