The Queqiao Chang’e-4 relay satellite launched by China performed a moon flyby followed by a propulsive maneuver that will slow the satellite and direct it towards the far end of the moon which is its intended destination. The satellite was launched on May 20, from the Xichang Satellite launch center located in the Sichuan Province. The BBAC (Beijing Aerospace Control Centre) gave a confirmation from telemetry about the successful burn of the satellite. The satellite has entered into the transfer orbit towards second Earth-moon Lagrange point.
The relay satellite passes moon at about a distance of hundred kilometers above the surface at the closest approach. The successful braking maneuver confirmed the flight ahead. A failure would have sent the satellite back to the earth. The satellite was launched with a focus on facilitating the communication between earth, lander, and rover, which will be sent by China to the far end of the moon by the end of this year. The satellite is carrying Netherlands-China low-frequency explorer or the NCLE which is a radio astronomy package. The same will be used to look for the radio emissions from universe’s infancy. This device will be further used to study the space weather and also provide a range of various other measurements.
The Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2 were the first two missions of a similar scale wherein orbiters where launched towards the moon back in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Chang’e 3 placed a lander and rover known as the “Yutu” on the lunar surface back in December 2013. Now Chang’e 4 aims to study the far end of the moon which is otherwise not visible and continues to stay somewhat mysterious. The satellite is also known as the magpie bridge and weighs around four-hundred kilograms. The life of this satellite is three years and with this China will be the first to have conducted the first soft launch of the far side of the moon. The Chang’e 5 lunar sample returning mission is scheduled for 2019.
The exploration of the lunar surface has been dominated by China in recent past with the launch of many programs within the same category. The country is aiming to establish a permanent presence on the lunar surface. A proposal for a lunar research station in ten years in under consideration to accumulate the technical expertise. According to the deputy director of China National Space Administration’s Lunar Exploration and Space Program Centre, Pei Zhaoyu, the said lunar research station would be operated by robots.