A Tiny Chinese Lunar Orbiter Just Crashed on the Moon’s Far Side (on Purpose)2 min read

Longjiang-2 outlived its planned one-year design life.

China’s tiny lunar orbiter Longjiang-2, also known as DSLWP-B, crashed intentionally into the moon’s far side on July 31, according to media reports.

Earth photobombs the far side of the moon in this color-corrected photo taken by China’s Longjiang-2 microsatellite on Feb. 4, 2019, at 10:20 a.m. EST (1520 GMT).(Image: © MingChuan Wei/Harbin Institute of Technology/CAMRAS/DK5LA)

The 104-lb. (47 kilograms) Longjiang-2 was sent into space on May 21, 2018, along with the Chang’e 4 lunar probe’s relay satellite, and entered orbit around the moon four days later. (Longjiang-2’s sister satellite, Longjiang-1, failed to reach lunar orbit.)

The small spacecraft operated in orbit for 437 Earth days, exceeding its one-year designed lifespan. It was then brought down in a controlled fashion at 10:20 a.m. EDT (1420 GMT; 10:20 p.m. Beijing time) on July 31, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing the China National Space Administration’s Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center as a source.

“The micro satellite carried an ultra-long-wave detector, developed by the National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, aiming to conduct radio astronomical observation and study solar radiation,” Xinhua wrote.

“As a part of the international cooperation behind China’s Chang’e 4 mission, Longjiang-2 also carried an optical camera developed by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology of Saudi Arabia,” the news agency added. “The camera has captured 30 high-definition images of the moon.”

Rest in pieces

“There is a new crater on the Moon,” Cees Bassa, a satellite observer and astronomer working at ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, tweeted on July 31.

“We are already 5 minutes past the moment DSLWP-B would have appeared from behind the Moon if it had not crashed. The fact that we are no longer receiving signals means it has impacted the lunar surface. RIP DSLWP-B,” Bassa added in the same tweet.

The collision with the moon was planned since January of this year and was done as a means to end the mission without leaving debris in lunar orbit, amateur radio expert Daniel Estévez wrote in a recent blog post.

Estévez explained in an earlier post that, on Jan. 24, the periapsis (low point) of the lunar orbit of DSLWP-B was lowered by approximately 310 miles (500 kilometers), so that orbital perturbations would eventually force the satellite to collide with the moon.


Sources: • Space.com

Featured Image: © MingChuan Wei/Harbin Institute of Technology/CAMRAS/DK5LA

Sebastien Clarke
Sebastien Clarke

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