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China sends communication satellite to far side of the moon

In this photo provided by China’s official Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-4C rocket carrying a relay satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), is launched from southwest China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Monday, May 21, 2018. China has launched a relay satellite as part of a groundbreaking program to land a probe on the far side of the moon this year. The China National Space Administration said on its website that the satellite lofted into space early Monday aboard a Long March-4C rocket will facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 mission.(Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP)

China launched a communications satellite towards the far side of the moon, which will become a vital link in “talking” to a future lunar mission which will attempt to soft land a probe and rover.

To date, no one has been able to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon.

China launched this first communication probe, known as Magpie Bridge, along with a few smaller attached science probes.

The name comes from a Chinese legend about two lovers who were reunited by a bridge of birds, who were separated by the heavens.

In the real world, the bridge will link the lunar lander and the satellite, with a unique communication link, between the spacecraft and Earth.

The moon presents the same face to Earth all the time, because its rotation is tidally locked. Many people have the wrong idea when they say the back of the moon is the dark side. In astronomy, the correct term is, the far side.

The far side of the moon has been explored by orbiting satellites and one of first and most famous was the Soviet Luna 3, which imaged the far side of the moon back on Oct. 7, 1959.

Only 18 percent of the far side of the moon is ever visible from Earth and this region of the moon is not like the front side.

The far side is packed with amazing craters and few of the flat plain seas, which create the many dark regions we see on the surface.

One of the largest cratered regions on the far side, is the massive South Pole-Aitken basin. This is the region of the moon which the Chinese are looking to send the lander/rover later this year.

To date, no human has ever stood on the far side of the moon.

The astronauts aboard the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 were the first to ever view the far side of the moon.

The best place in the near solar system to set up a radio telescope, or an optical telescope, would be on the far side of the moon.

Conditions during part of the lunar month would keep out radio interference from Earth, as well as true darkness, to explore the universe.

The best time for super dark observations of the night sky from the moon would occur when we here on Earth see a full moon.

At that time, the opposite side of the moon is deep in darkness. That must be a most amazing sight to see.

The moon is, on average, some 238,000 miles away. That is a few days away by spacecraft speeds and only 1.2 seconds away by light speed.

Another fact about the moon is that of all the places in the solar system, the lowest temperatures measures are found at the south pole of the moon.

Poor Pluto got kicked out as a planet and then as the coldest place in the solar system, replaced with the lowest temperature now measured in the south pole of the moon, at an incredible minus 397 degrees Fahrenheit.

The lowest possible theoretical temperature is that of absolute zero (minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit). So, that region of the moon is very cold.

Print your very own May 2018 star chart.

View satellites, dates/times of passage.


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