Beijing has offered to make all information collected by its Chang’e-4 lunar probe, on the far side of the moon since early January, accessible to astronomers and scientists worldwide as “open source data”.
The Chinese probe made the first ever soft landing in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon on January 3.
The far side of the moon has unique features, and scientists expect that the Chang’e-4 could bring breakthrough findings. Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and Saudi Arabia collaborated on the mission and each contributed scientific equipment to be part of the Chang’e-4’s payload.
Meanwhile, both the lander and the rover, Yutu (Jade Rabbit), have already woken up from a “sleep mode” over the past weekend, after their second lunar night, and have resumed collecting new data.
A lunar day equals 14 days on Earth, and a lunar night is of the same length. The probe switched to a dormant mode during the lunar night due to the lack of direct sunlight to power its operations.
Among the probe’s missions are low-frequency radio astronomical observations, the surveying of terrain and landforms and measuring neutron radiation and neutral atoms.
Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, told Xinhua that his team had been drawing up a plan for the fourth phase lunar exploration, including missions to the polar regions. Some craters in areas of the moon’s south pole region are never exposed to sunlight and might hold frozen water.
“Our long-term hope is to build a scientific research station in the south polar region of the moon. It would be operated automatically and visited by taikonauts for short periods,” said Wu.
Beijing has also finalized a plan to launch the Chang’e-5 by the end of the year to return about two kilograms of samples from the moon, and it also aims to send a probe in 2020 to orbit, land and explore Mars.
A concept heavy-lift carrier rocket, with a takeoff weight of about 4,000 tonnes and a diameter of 10 meters, is the proposed launch vehicle for missions beyond 2030, to bring samples from the red planet and send taikonauts to the moon, according to Xinhua.