NASA and the Chinese Space Agency ring in the new year with some new milestones


NASA, the US space agency rang in the new year with a new milestone. It’s New Horizons mission flew by an icy world known as Ultima Thule. This distant object resides in the Kuiper belt some 6.5bn km (4bn miles) away from earth, making it the most distant ever exploration of an object in our Solar System.

The Kuiper belt is a band of frozen material that orbits the Sun more than 2 billion km further away from Neptune. Ultima Thule is one such material in a deep freeze that is perfectly preserved in the state in which it formed.

New Horizons captured gigabytes of photos and other data during the flyby that will be relayed over the next few months. NASA hopes the probe will continue to explore the rest of the Kuiper Belt. The data sent back will help scientists learn more about how the solar system formed.

Here is on such blurry photo.

A render of the Chang’e-4 rover on the lunar surface, released Aug. 15, 2018 (Credit: CASC)

On the evening of January 2, the Chinese space agency managed another feat. It successfully landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon’s surface, where no human or robot has ever ventured before. China’s space agency launched the Chang’e-4 mission toward the moon on December 7 and landed it into a crater on the side of the Moon that’s always facing away from Earth.

Did you know? It takes the Moon roughly the same amount of time to spin around its axis (rotate) as it does to orbit the Earth. A full lunar day (rotation) is roughly 29 Earth days long. That is why we always see the same side of the Moon from Earth. The part we don’t see is called the “far side”. No space agency has ever been able to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.

Why is that? There is no direct line of sight with the far side of the moon, so it is difficult to communicate with probes on the side of the moon we cannot see. To get radio signals to the spacecraft on the moon’s far side China launched a lunar satellite in May. The satellite sits in space near the Moon and provides a communication pathway between the Chang’e-4 spacecraft and Earth.

The Chang’e-4 mission has sent back images from the mysterious side of the moon! It will continue to conduct experiments and learn more about the far side of the moon!

Written By: Biyash Choksey

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