Executive Intelligence Review


China’s Space Day Features the Upcoming Chang’e-4 Mission to the Lunar Far Side

April 24, 2018 (EIRNS)—Today is China’s third annual Space Day, celebrated on the anniversary that China launched its first satellite in 1970. On the first national Space Day in 2016, President Xi Jinping explained that “Exploring the vast universe, developing space programs, and becoming an aerospace power has always been the dream we strive for.” The theme of Space Day this year is “Forging Together the New Era of Space Development.”

The media are highlighting the upcoming Chang’e-4 mission to the far side of the Moon, which will launch the relay satellite next month. Andrew Jones reports for GBTimes multimedia that the relay satellite, now named Queqiao, or “Magpie Bridge,” as announced today by the China National Space Administration, will launch on May 21. It will be in an orbit more than 60,000 km away from the lander and rover on the far side of the Moon, and nearly half a million kilometers from Earth. It will be in a gravitationally stable “halo” orbit, from where, it will be able to communicate with both the lunar spacecraft and the Earth. The lunar spacecraft, because it will be on the side of the Moon that never faces Earth, cannot talk directly to mission control.

The launcher of the relay satellite will take along two microsatellites, Longjiang-1 and 2, developed by students at the Harbin Institute of Technology. The lander and rover will launch approximately six months after the relay satellite, and will carry payloads contributed by Germany, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden. This will be the first landing on the far side of the Moon.

The Queqiao relay satellite is named for the ancient myth of the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, who are separated by the Silver River (i.e., the Milky Way). They are reunited on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month when magpies join to form a bridge out of their wings for the star-crossed lovers.