China’s Chang’e 4 mission has been a rousing success for the country’s space agency, and it’s already celebrated a number of “firsts,” including being the first lander to perform a soft landing on the far side of the Moon.
The far side of the Moon — that is, the side that we never see here on Earth when we gaze skyward — hasn’t been studied in as great of detail as its near side. One of the things scientists were eager to observe is just how chilly the lander and its rover would get when enduring the lunar night, and now we finally know.
Speaking with China’s Xinhua news group, researchers from the China National Space Administration revealed that temperatures recorded by the machines is significant lower than had been predicted. It got as cold as -310 degrees Fahrenheit (-190 degrees Celsius) during the lunar night.
Those frigid temps are lower than what other missions have found on the opposite side of the Moon, and Chinese scientists believe the composition of the surface may play a role.
“That’s probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon,” CNSA’s Zhang He told Xinhua.
The Chang’e 4 lander and its rover companion have already accomplished a lot in their brief time on the Moon’s surface, but their work isn’t done just yet. The machines will continue to make observations of the lunar surface as well as cosmic radiation and space weather.
The biggest challenge for China moving forward will be the successful completion of its Chang’e 5 mission, which will send a lander to the Moon’s surface to grab a sample of its material before heading back to Earth. That mission is likely still many months away, but China’s space agency has been moving at a breakneck pace as of late, and it’s expected to begin before the end of the year.