Category Archives: Chinese space

Chang’e-4 in sleep mode, Videos of rover and the landing, + Cotton shoots sprout

[ Update Jan.16.2019: There has been some confusion about the photos of the cotton plant shoots. A couple of early images circulating in the Chinese press were actually from a ground unit. However, the one shown below is apparently from the lander:


China’s Chang’e-4 mission on the far side of the Moon has begun initial operations with the scientific instruments on board the lander and has taken a short drive of the rover Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2):

An earlier video showing the deployment of the rover:

A press conference was held this week with managers of the Chinese space program, including “Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the Chang’e-4 probe”. They discussed the challenges of operating the systems in the lunar environment: China’s new lunar rover faces challenges on moon’s far side – Xinhua |

Both the lander and the rover entered a “sleep mode” on Sunday as the first lunar night after the probe’s landing fell, according to Wu.

One night on the moon lasts about 14 days on the earth, during which the temperature falls as low as minus 180 degrees centigrade. There is no sunlight to provide power to the probe, which will survive the night with its thermal control system with a radioisotope heat source.

The landing went quite smoothly:

Sun told reporters that the Chang’e-4 probe had achieved the expected landing precision. The telemetry information and images taken by the probe showed that the spacecraft effectively avoided obstacles during its descent.

“It hovered at around 100 meters above the lunar surface and moved about 8 meters towards the southwestern direction. After its landing, we discovered large craters with a diameter of more than 10 meters on both the southern and northern sides of the probe, and it successfully avoided them,” Sun said.

Scott Manley analyzes the landing video:

I took the best video from an official source, then corrected it for real time, interpolated frames to smooth it using butterflow. Then using the high quality video I try to map through all the features we see to provide an idea of how large the craters are.

The scientific experiments on board the lander include a mini-biosphere to demonstrate growing plants on the Moon. A cotton-seed quickly sprouted: China Focus: Moon sees first cotton-seed sprout – Xinhua |

Professor Xie Gengxin, of Chongqing University and chief designer of the experiment, said a canister installed on the lander of the Chang’e-4 probe contained the seeds of cotton, rapeseed, potato and Arabidopsis, as well as eggs of the fruit fly and some yeast, to form a simple mini biosphere.

Images sent by the probe showed that a cotton sprout had started to grow, though no other plants were found growing.

A photo of the shoots: China’s plants sprout on moon’s far side –

“At 8 pm on Jan 12, Chang’e 4 sends back the last photo of the bio test load showing that tender shoots have come out and the plants are growing well inside the sealed test can. It is the first time humans conducted a biological growth and cultivation experiment on the surface of the moon.” – Chongqing University and ChinaDaily.

The plant experiment, however, was a brief one. The seeds will not survive the night-time temperatures.

This sort of research from Chang’e-4 will provide data in support of Chinese human missions later:

A sample return mission – Chang’e-5 – is the next Moon mission on the agenda: China’s lunar exploration program to meet goal of sample returning by 2020: official – CCTVPLUS

The Chang’e-5 probe will be launched by the end of this year and will collect two kg of samples and bring them back to Earth. China plans to launch a probe in 2020 that will orbit, land and rove on Mars the following year, according to Wu.

More reports on Chang’e-5:


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

Chang’e-4: Latest images and videos from lander and rover on lunar far side

Controllers of the Chinese space Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover have reactivated the two systems after a standby period during the most intense period of solar heat during the lunar day. Various scientific instruments are being activated, the rover will soon being roving, and cameras are taking pictures such as these panoramas:

Chang’e-4 Yutu-2 first panorama

Here is a circular panorama of the scene around the lander:

Panorama of view around the lander.

The two lander and rover have taken images of one another:

Here’s an interesting video of the landing on January 3rd as seen from the spacecraft: Here’s the amazing footage of the Chang’e-4 landing on the far side of the Moon |

More about the mission:


Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes

Space policy roundup – Jan.5.2019

A sampling of links to recent space policy, politics, and government (US and international) related space news and resource items that I found of interest:


** January 5, 2019 Zimmerman/Batchelor podcast | Behind The Black

** Episode T+106: Q&A – Main Engine Cut Off – “This month I tackle questions on future space architectures, companies working in space right now, and finish with a 2018 Top 10 ranking.”

** The Space Show, 12/30/2018Thomas A. Olson ” presented a comprehensive launch, commercial, science, government and private sector overview of 2018 space activities”.

** Weekly Space Hangout: Jan 2, 2019- News Roundup – Universe Today


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China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft lands on lunar far side

China has successfully placed its Chang’e-4 spacecraft onto the surface of the far side of the Moon. It appears that the rover has also been released. This is the first time that any spacecraft has landed on the lunar far side.

The first image taken by the Chang’e-4 spacecraft of its landing spot on the lunar far side.

The craft landed in the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. and is able to communicate with earth using the Queqiao relay satellite, which was launched in May of 2018. The mission will look for clues to the geologic structure and history of the Moon: Chang’e-4 spacecraft – Science Magazine

Chang’e-4 was launched on 8 December 2018 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province. The landing site is in the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. The basin was likely formed by a giant asteroid impact that might have brought material from the moon’s upper mantle to the surface; studying samples taken there might offer scientists the chance to learn more about the composition of the body’s interior. The moon’s far side has a much thicker, older crust and is pockmarked by more and deeper craters than the near side, where large dark plains called maria, formed by ancient lava flows, have erased much of the cratering. Chang’e-4’s observations could give clues to the processes behind the differences.

And there are also instruments to carry out astronomical, solar, and biological research:

The lander carries cameras for observations of the terrain and a low-frequency spectrometer to study solar bursts. The rover has a panoramic camera, a spectrometer for identifying surface materials, and a ground-penetrating radar to probe subsurface structures. Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia contributed payloads that will measure radiation and use low-frequency radio astronomy to listen for faint signals lingering in the cosmos since the formation of the universe’s first stars, among other things. The lander also carries a minuscule biosphere developed by Chinese universities that will study the low-gravity interaction of a number of plants and silkworms.

This video shows various aspects of the Chang’e’4 mission with a mix of animations and real imagery:

The lander has a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) that will provide power for a mission that aims to last at least three months. A RTG is needed to keep the lander alive and active during the 2-week long cold nights when no solar power is available.

Deployment of the Yutu-2 rover. (Via

More about Chang’e-4:


Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes

Audio: Update on space development in China

China’s space program is growing and expanding into all sectors of space exploration and development. A commercial launch industry is also blossoming. Here is a program about space in China: Constellations, a New Space and Satellite Innovation Podcast: China’s Long March Rocket Family, its Belt and Road Space Initiative and the “Elon Musk” Factor

China has been in the news a lot lately, mostly about trade tariffs and their expansion in the South China Sea. But in addition to the country’s growing economic power and international influence, it has also made some very impressive strides in terms of its space program. With us today is Blaine Curcio, the founder of Orbital Gateway Consulting. He discusses China’s development of the Long March rocket family, the deployment of the first space station, the Chinese lunar exploration program and the

Belt and Road Spatial Information Corridor, a significant space initiative that, among other things, plans to have a global GPS available by 2020. He explains the difference between the meritocratic nature of the U.S. space industry versus China’s incumbent advantage, as well as the “Elon Musk” factor in China’s space industry.


Note that the long-standing cliche criticism of space – “We should spend money on the poor instead of space” – is not supported by the Chinese experience. Absolute poverty there has dropped from about 85% of the population in the mid-1980s, when the economy was transformed from socialism into a mostly free market structure, to around 5% today. They did that with a space program growing in parallel. So the two things are clearly not in conflict.


Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space.