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China's Chang'e probe discovers what's lurking beneath moon's far side – CNET



The Chang’e 4 lander on the far side of the moon.


It’s awfully lonely for the Chang’e 4 lander and rover on the far side of the moon, but there’s also a ton of opportunity over there. As the only spacecraft to ever touch down on the surface, Chang’e 4 has been revealing the secrets of the moon’s other face for almost a year. It’s rover, known as Yutu-2, has uncovered a strange gel-like substance and taken stunning pictures of the surface but new research shows the plucky, lonely rover has also been investigating what lies beneath.

The Chang’e 4 mission has spent over a year on the lunar surface, touching down on the far side in January 2019 and releasing Yutu-2 on the flat, desolate plains of Von Kármán crater, a big impact structure that lies in the South Pole-Aitken basin. Equipped with a penetrating radar, Yutu-2 is able to send out pulses of radio waves through the surface of the moon, which are then bounced back off soil and rock to paint a picture of the moon’s underworld.   

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China’s voyage to the far side of the moon


In a paper published in the open-access journal Science Advances on Wednesday, a collaboration of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and institutes across Italy and China has provided the first subsurface details from the moon’s far side. Using the penetrating radar over two lunar days of study, the team was able to map a depth of up to 40 meters below the surface, revealing the geologic features present.

The far side of the moon is a bit of a punching bag. The surface is highly-cratered because over the period of about 4.5 billion years, its been smashed by impacted by roaming space rocks. The South Pole-Aitken basin is one such impact crater and that’s what makes the results from Chang’e 4 so exciting — they can provide information about the cosmic collision and reveal more about the minerals within.


A diagram of the moon’s underbelly, as detected by the Yutu-2 rover.


Chang’e 4’s radar shows three distinct layers of the lunar surface in the crater. On top is the lunar regolith — a fine, loose layer of rock that extends approximately 12 meters below. That far down there’s a layer of much bigger rocks and boulders, likely kicked up and settled after an impact event. The bottom layer starts at around 24 meters down and seems to contain finer dust and larger rocks.

The team believes this layering was created during the formative years of the galaxy, when space was a lot less serene. It’s likely the moon was constantly struck, forcing material to be ejected from its surface and then settling back on the surface. Such activity could create the layering seen, with each impact causing a different distribution of rock and soil.

China’s previous lunar explorer, Chang’e 3, landed on the other side of the moon — the one facing Earth. It also took images of the subsurface but was not able to reach the same depths as Chang’e 4. 

“We found that the signal penetration at the [Chang’e 4] site is much greater than that measured by the previous spacecraft, Chang’e-3, at its near-side landing site,” said Li Chunlai, deputy director-general of the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and author of the new paper, in a press release. The lack of radar penetration with Chang’e 3 suggests the two landing sites have a totally different composition of rock and soil.

With this new look at the moon’s mysterious far side, scientists take another leap forward in understanding how impacts and lunar volcanism may have shaped our celestial sister. And the party doesn’t stop there.

China is looking to expand upon its Lunar Exploration Program with the launch of another lunar explorer towards the end of the year, Chang’e 5. The country will attempt to send another lander to the surface of the moon, in the hope of retrieving samples of the fine soil that makes up the surface and bringing them back to Earth.  

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Hubble Looks at Spiral Galaxy NCG 7329 –



The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured an amazing photo of the spiral galaxy NCG 7329.

This Hubble image shows NCG 7329, a spiral galaxy located some 149 million light-years away in the constellation of Tucana. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / Riess et al.

NCG 7329 was first discovered by the English astronomer John Herschel on July 20, 1835.

Otherwise known as ESO 109-12, IRAS 22369-6644 and LEDA 69453, it resides 149 million light-years away in the constellation of Tucana.

The galaxy is a member of the NGC 7329 group (LGG 462), an assembly of more than 10 galaxies bound together by gravity.

This new image of NCG 7329 is made up of observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in the infrared and optical parts of the spectrum.

“Creating a colorful image such as this one using a telescope such as Hubble is not as straightforward as pointing and clicking a camera,” Hubble astronomers said.

“Commercial cameras will typically try to collect as much light of all visible wavelengths as they can, in order to create the most vibrant images possible.”

“In contrast, raw images collected by Hubble are always monochromatic, because astronomers typically want to capture very specific ranges of wavelengths of light at any time, in order to do the best, most accurate science possible.”

“In order to control which wavelengths of light will be collected, Hubble’s cameras are equipped with a wide variety of filters, which only allow certain wavelengths of light to reach the cameras’ CCDs (a CCD is a camera’s light sensor — phone cameras also have CCDs).”

“How are the colorful Hubble images possible given that the raw Hubble images are monochromatic? This is accomplished by combining multiple different observations of the same object, obtained using different filters,” they added.

“This image of NCG 7329, for example, was processed from Hubble observations made using four different filters, each of which spans a different region of the light spectrum.”

“Specialized image processors and artists can make informed judgements about which optical colors best correspond to each filter used.”

“They can then color the images taken using that filter accordingly.”

“Finally, the images taken with different filters are stacked together, and voila!”

“The colorful image of a distant galaxy is complete, with colors as representative of reality as possible.”

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SpaceX Tapped For 3 More Possible Commercial Crew Flights To Space – Forbes



SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is just going to get busier shuttling astronauts in the coming years.

NASA announced it intends to issue a sole-source modification to SpaceX’s long-term contract to send astronauts to the International Space Station. This follows an agency call for proposals back in October for more flight options to send people to space.

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which is the other major system, is not quite yet ready for humans following a difficult uncrewed test flight in 2019 that never saw the spacecraft reach the ISS. Starliner has spent some time fixing computer glitches and other issues (including a valve problem that delayed an expected 2021 launch) and is now expecting a second uncrewed test flight by 2022.

The October solicitation, NASA noted, confirms SpaceX is the only viable choice for the time being, given the agency’s safety requirements and the need to keep the space station staffed continuously in the coming years.

“It’s critical we begin to secure additional flights to the space station now so we are ready as these missions are needed to maintain a U.S. presence on station,” Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s space 0perations mission directorate, said in a blog post. “Our U.S. human launch capability is essential to our continued safe operations in orbit and to building our low-Earth orbit economy.”

NASA stated it would use these new flights “as early as 2023”, and that the contract (in securing flights and allowing the agency to task personnel elsewhere) will help them get Boeing’s Starliner system ready to fly astronauts once it’s been certified.

“NASA and Boeing will provide additional updates on the status of Starliner’s next mission as we work through the investigation and verification efforts to determine root cause and effective vehicle remediation,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA, in the same statement.

The latest issue holding up the flight was an oxidizer isolation valve that was found in August, and NASA and Boeing together elected to pull the spacecraft back to the hanger to figure out how to fix the issue before sending the spacecraft aloft.

Another pressing issue for NASA’s future will be extending the planned retirement of the ISS from 2024 to at least 2028, which the agency has said for years it wants to do. It is in negotiations with Congress and with its international partners to do this, and in the meantime, last week the agency also announced it has secured three early-stage contracts for future private space stations to fly late in the 2020s.

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See what food challenges astronauts face in space – CGTN America



For the first time ever, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency hosted the Deep Space Food Challenge. 

The competition brought universities and companies together to propose solutions on how to feed astronauts on a long mission. Last month, NASA announced that the winners and one of the international winners of the Phase 1 competition came from a group of students in a university in South America. 

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports Colombia.

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