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China launches satellite to explore Moon’s far side

Beijing, May 21: China launched a relay satellite on Monday to set up a communication link between Earth and the planned Chang’e-4 lunar probe that will explore the mysterious far side of Moon, which can not be seen from the Earth. The satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), was carried by a Long March-4C rocket that blasted from China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Xinhua news agency reported. “The launch is a key step for China to realise its goal of being the first country to send a probe to soft-land on and rove the far side of the Moon,” said Zhang Lihua, manager of the relay satellite project. Queqiao is expected to enter a halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the Earth-Moon system, about 455,000 km from the Earth. It will be the world’s first communication satellite operating in that orbit.

Chinese scientists and engineers hope the Queqiao satellite will form a communication bridge between controllers on Earth and the far side of the Moon where the Chang’e-4 lunar probe is expected to touch down later this year. Monday’s launch was the 275th mission of the Long March rocket series. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita