China inches closer to Moon exploration with launch of new satellite


China really, really, really wants to explore the Moon — more specifically, the dark side of the Moon. The country has been steadily moving towards its ultimate goal of Moon exploration for a long while now, and it just launched a shiny new satellite that lays at least part of the foundation to achieve it.

The new satellite, called Queqiao (that means “Magpie Bridge,” according to Chinese news agency Xinhua), will act as a relay to link communications between the country’s science team on Earth and its planned Chang’e 4 lunar probe which is planned for the not-so-distant future.

The early-morning launch of the satellite was facilitated by a Long March-4C rocket which departed from the country’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The satellite successfully entered a transfer orbit to bring it to the Moon and according to China’s National Space Administration, the spacecraft unfolded its solar panels and communications antennas without issue.

“The launch is a key step for China to realize its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the Moon,” Zhang Lihua, manager of the satellite mission said, according to Xinhua. China’s Moon exploration ambitions have been building rapidly in recent years, and as companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin begin to commercialize spaceflight, the country’s aim to leave its mark on the Moon seems to be designed to bring its space science programs into the international spotlight. – READ  MORE

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