Space Exploration Current Affairs - 2019
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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.
An Earth Like Planet called Proxima B orbiting the closest neighboring Star, Proxima Centauri, which is about 4.2 light years away is expected to have liquid water and the potential to support alien life. The planet Proxima B was discovered in the last year. Earlier studies have concluded that the planet is present in the habitable zone of its star Proxima Centauri so much so that it receives the right amount of light to sustain liquid water on its surface. The planet is of similar size to the Earth and is expected to have an ‘Earth-like’ atmosphere.
Scientists from the University of Exeter in the UK have undertaken new research to explore the potential climate of the planet. Scientists simulated the climate of Proxima B. In contrast to Earth, the light from Proxima B were found to be mostly in the infra-red. They simulated a simpler atmosphere with traces of carbon dioxide as well as variations of the planets orbit. The results from the simulation showed that Proxima B could have the potential to be habitable and lie in a remarkably stable climate regime. However, more studies need to be carried out to ascertain whether they can sustain any form of life. The study has been published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.