China's lunar lander and rover 'wake up' after two-week nap

Chang’e 4 China’s lunar probe lands on far side of Moon

China says it's even colder on the Moon than we thought

The rover and the lander of the Chang'e-4 probe were awakened after a long "sleep" during their first extremely cold night on the Moon, the China National Space Administration announced on Thursday.

The moon is tidally locked in its orbit around the Earth, meaning that it does not spin on its axis the way the Earth does, creating typical day-night cycles. The Chang'e-4 lunar probe, which descended into the Von Karman crater on January 3rd, detected sub-zero temperatures of minus 310 degrees Fahrenheit (about -190 degrees Celsius).

Photo provided by the China National Space Administration on January 3, 2019 shows the first image of the moon's far side taken by China's Chang'e-4 probe.

Temperatures on the dark side of the moon, at night, turned out to be colder than expected, the Chinese National Space Agency reported. Instead, the same side of the moon always faces Earth, and the far side has been hidden from view for all of human history. It has a different composition than sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

"According to the measurements of Chang'e 4, the temperature of the shallow layer of the lunar soil on the far side of the moon is lower than the data obtained by the U.S. Apollo mission on the near side of the moon", said Zhang He, executive director of the Chang'e 4 probe project, from the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

"From the panorama, we could see the probe was surrounded by many small craters".

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Temperatures vary enormously between day and night on the moon.

China's first lunar rover, the 2013 Chang'e-3 mission's Yutu, travelled just 114 metres before encountering an issue to ended the rover's mobility.

NASA said it discussed in the past month with China to explore the possibility of observing a signature of the landing plume of Chang'e-4, as in a manner similar to what was done for Chang'e-3.

It is known that the lunar night lasts about two weeks.

The lander and rover are outfitted with a radioisotope heat source.

The Chang'e-4 spacecraft will carry out a range of science experiments and continue to return images from the topography camera on the lander and a panoramic camera on Yutu-2. These include the first "low frequency radio astronomy experiment", an investigation into whether plants can grow in a low gravity environment and if interaction between solar winters and the lunar surface exists. The scientific instruments on its lander are still operating after more than 60 lunar nights over the past five years.

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