UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Queqiao Satellite
The Queqiao, a relay Satellite was launched by China for establishing a communication link between the Earth and Chang’e-4 lunar probe which will explore the dark side of the moon. The satellite was launched from Xichang launch centre on board Long March-4C as a part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme (CLEP).
- Queqiao means bridge of magpies, a mention from a Chinese folk-tale. Chang’e meanwhile is Chinese moon goddess.
- The Chang’e 4 lunar probe will be assisted by Queqiao as communication relay while exploring South Pole- Aitken Basin in the moon’s far side.
- Queqiao is placed in the halo orbit (L2) – the Earth-Moon Lagrange point, which is a spot that is gravitationally stable situated 64000 kms beyond the far side of the moon.
- Queqiao is also carrying a radio-astronomy package called the Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer (NCLE), which will hunt for radio emissions from the universe’s infancy, study space weather, characterize the radio environment of the Earth-moon system and make a range of other measurements. NCLE is a pathfinder experiment.
- Two microsatellites namely Longjiang-1 and Longjiang-2 would also ride to space along with Queqiao, which would also be involved in some radio-astronomy research.
Why is Queqiao Satellite necessary?
- As the moon is tidally locked to Earth, only one side of the moon can be seen from the Earth. This makes it necessary to have a communication link on the farside, the absence of which would give rise to a situation where the signals would have to be sent through the moon’s rocky bulk.
- Queqiao will relay commands and data between the Chang’e 4 lander and its handlers on the Earth.
- Queqiao would be the first communication satellite operating from the far side of the moon. It would make China, the first country to send probe to soft land and rove the dark side of the moon.
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