Moon Current Affairs
China launched relay satellite named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) to establish communication link between earth and its planned Chang’e-4 lunar probe (rover) that will explore the dark side of moon. It was launched as part of Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) onboard of Long March-4C rocket from Xichang launch centre.
Queqiao (Magpie Bridge)
Queqiao (meaning bridge of magpies) satellite will serve as communications relay for future Chang’e-4 rover that will explore in South Pole-Aitken Basin in moon’s far side. It will be situated in halo orbit i.e. Earth-moon Lagrange point L2, a gravitationally stable spot located 64,000 kilometers beyond lunar far side. It will be world’s first communication satellite operating in this location. It will help China to realise its goal of being first country to send probe to soft-land on and rove far side of the moon.
Need for relay Satellite
Moon is tidally locked to Earth, meaning it always shows same face (near side) to Earth. So, relay link is necessary to communicate with spacecraft on far side, which will otherwise have to send their signals through moon’s rocky bulk.
Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) also known as Chang’e program after Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, is ongoing series of robotic Moon missions by conceived by China National Space Administration (CNSA). The program incorporates lunar orbiters, landers, rovers and sample return spacecraft, launched using Long March rockets. Under it, Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2 probes already have reached lunar orbit in 2007 and 2010, respectively. The Chang’e 3 mission is in process to put lander and rover on moon’s near side. China is also planning to laugh Chang’e 5 T1, a mission to send sample-return capsule around moon and back to Earth to demonstrate technology needed to survive fiery atmospheric entry.
Scientists from Tohoku University in Japan have found mineral called moganite in lunar meteorite that point to presence of abundant hidden reserves of water ice under the surface of the moon. The mineral discovered in a desert in northwest Africa could be potentially useful for future human exploration of moon.
Moganite is a crystal of silicon dioxide (SiO₂). It is known to form on earth in specific circumstances in sedimentary settings from alkaline fluids. It was so far never detected in samples of lunar rock. Researchers believe that mineral formed on surface of moon in area called Procellarum Terrane as water which was originally present in lunar dirt that had evaporated due to exposure to strong sunlight. But in the subsurface, abundant water remains in the form of ice.