As more new discoveries about Pluto come from the New Horizons spacecraft flyby, China has announced a mission closer to earth. The nation plans to begin exploring the far side of the moon starting in 2018 at the earliest.
“The country submitted their preliminary report to the United Nations Office for Outerspace Affairs indicating that it has plans of launching an unmanned mission to the moon with the spacecraft Chang’E-4 by 2018 or 2019. The probe will lay the groundwork for what would be China’s lunar base,” reports Rachel Cruz for Headlines and Global News.
Back in 2013, China successful pulled off its first moon landing. The nation’s moon lander, Chang 3 and rover Yutu (Jade Rabbit) were able to explore and take photos of the moon, making China the third country in history to land on the earth’s natural satellite.
CNSA (China’s equivalent to NASA) will go back in three to four years to explore using a new lander called Chang 4, then the country intends to establish a base as an observational outpost to observe the solar system. China is also optimistic that the base could serve as a station for manned missions further in the solar system.
According to International Business Times writer Darwin Malicdem, “China stated that the project is open for cooperating with other nations exploring the space, particularly with ESA for future lunar missions, as the latter has proposed building a ‘lunar village’ recently.”
This week has been a remarkable time for astronomy after NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reached Pluto.
The spacecraft traveled 3 billion miles in order to capture high-definition photos of the former last planet in our solar system and its moons. These photos provided new insights into the mysterious Pluto that NASA scientists have long wondered about.
According to Alan Stern, principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, “the steep topography means that the bedrock that makes those mountains must be made of H2O — of water ice,” said Stern. “We can be very sure that the water is there in great abundance.”
The photos also revealed that the dwarf planet did not have any craters even though it is in close proximity to the Kuiper Belt. This belt has many icy bodies that could have crashed into Pluto at some time or another.
“That lack of craters means the surface of Pluto is young, less than 100 million years old, the researchers said. That’s a small fraction of the age of the solar system — 4.5 billion years, ” reports Amanda Barnett for CNN.
As New Horizons flew by Pluto, it also captured images of Charon (Pluto’s largest moon) and four other smaller ones. The spacecraft is estimated to have about 20 years of power left, so there is more information to come.
Amazingly, the information gathered from the Pluto flyby will take 16 months to download by NASA.