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How China’s Queqiao Relay Satellite Plays a Key Role in Exploring the Far Side of the Moon

China has landed on the far side of the moon, and they are making history.

China has become the first country in history to successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.

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As you are reading this, the Chang’e 4 probe is sitting tight inside the Von Kármán crater located on the far side of the moon.

The first image of the moon's far side snapped by China's Chang'e 4 probe, which touched down on he far side of the moon on Jan. 2, 2019 (Jan. 3 Beijing time). Image Credit: CNSA.
The first image of the moon’s far side snapped by China’s Chang’e 4 probe, which touched down on the far side of the moon on Jan. 2, 2019 (Jan. 3 Beijing time). Image Credit: CNSA.

The mission has started exploring the far side of the moon, and a relay satellite placed into orbit plays a crucial role in the success of the mission.

China has already begun performing experiments on the moon, and the Chinese lander has recently released its Yutu-2 rover onto the lunar surface.

Yutu-2, aka Rabbit-2, has become the first ever vehicle to leave a footprint on the far side of the moon as it separated smoothly from the lander.

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Quequiao–Magpie Bridge

For everything to work flawlessly, communication between the lander, the rover, and Earth is of great importance.

That’s why China’s relay Satellite, named Queqiao, meaning Magpie Bridge after a Chinese legend is doing an essential job while orbiting the moon.

Image Credit: Nature.

Quequao was launched on May 21, 2018 and has become the first communication satellite operating in the halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers) past the Moon, and serves to communicate with Earth, reports Xinhua.

As explained by Sun Ji, a designer of the satellite from the China Academy of Space Technology, the relay satellite is located at a maximum distance between Chang’e 4 on the far side of the mon at 79,000 kilometers.

The satellite is an imperative tool used to process data from the probe and transmit it back to mission control on Earth.

The satellite can remain in its orbit around the moon for a long time thanks to its low fuel consumption, aid Zhang Lihua, chief designer of the satellite.

via GIPHY

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Scientists say that earth’s and moon’s gravity help balance its orbital trajectory.

While orbiting the moon, the relay satellite can observe both the Earth and the far side of the Moon.

“We will let Queqiao work as long as possible. It could also provide communication for probes from other countries if they intend to explore the moon’s far side within the lifetime of the satellite,” explained Ye Peijian, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a senior space expert.

“And that will be a Chinese contribution made to the world,” Ye added.

But in addition to being an intermediary between the exploring robots on the moon’s far side, and mission scientists on Earth, the relay satellite will also be sued for a plethora of scientific and technological experiments.

As explained by Xinhuanet, the satellite features a low-frequency radio spectrometer on board, jointly developed by Dutch and Chinese scientists. The instrument will help astronomers “listen” to the deeper reaches of the cosmos.