General, Research, Technology

China will send plants and insects to the moon this year

For many, the first human landing on the moonmarked the transition of mankind to a new era of space exploration, but this glory will fade into the background after the next step in the conquest of outer space - landing on Mars. Nevertheless, in recent years, many space agencies have again flashed a desire to return to the already passed "giant leap for all mankind."

This year as part of the Chinese lunarthe research program (CLEP), implemented by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), plans to implement the Chang'e-4 mission. As part of the program, two orbital spacecraft, as well as one lander with a lunar rover, have already been launched to the moon. Now the Chinese side has a desire to study the geological features of the Earth’s natural satellite and at the same time to study the effects of lunar gravity on terrestrial insects and plants.

Chang'e 4 mission scheduled for Junethis year. Within its framework, with the help of the Long March 5 launch vehicle, a landing vehicle consisting of a stationary lunar station and a lunar rover will be launched. Six months after the spacecraft reaches the desired orbit at the Lagrange point L2, a landing module with a lunar rover will be sent to the moon. The latter, in addition to scientific tools for studying the features of the lunar soil, will carry on its board a special container made of aluminum alloy, inside which will contain plant seeds, as well as live insects.

“The potato seeds will be in the container,arabidopsis, as well as silkworm eggs. Hatching silkworm caterpillars can produce carbon dioxide, while potatoes and seeds can produce oxygen for them through photosynthesis. As a result, we can get a simple ecosystem, ”said the main developer of the container, Qian Yansun, in an interview with the local publication Chongqing Morning Post.

The mission’s interest is added by the fact thatthe spacecraft will be first landing in an unexplored region on the far side of the moon. This region is the South Pole Basin - Aitken - a huge impact crater in the southern hemisphere of the satellite. Its approximate diameter is 2500 kilometers with a depth of about 13 kilometers, which makes it one of the largest craters in the entire solar system.

For scientists, the crater is of interest not onlyits size. In the past, astronomers have discovered that this region contains large reserves of water ice. Scientists explain its presence not only by the active "bombardment" of this region by meteorites and asteroids that could contain water, but also by the fact that this ice could remain there due to the constant presence in the shade from sunlight. Without direct sunlight, water ice in this area was not subjected to sublimation and chemical dissociation.

Since the late 60s, a study of this regionwas carried out as part of several missions, including Apollo 15/16/17, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), as well as the Indian Chandrayan-1. As part of the latter, which took place in 2008, an impact probe was also ejected, with the help of which it was possible to lift soil particles from the surface of the satellite into space, which were subsequently studied by the orbital apparatus. As part of this mission, the presence of water ice in Aitken Crater was confirmed. Later, the data was also confirmed by the NASA LRO spacecraft.

Thanks to this discovery, the South Pole Basin -Aitken began to be considered one of the most suitable places for the construction of the lunar base. Therefore, from this point of view, the Chang'e-4 mission will also be aimed at clarifying this possibility. Indeed, in addition to a more detailed analysis of the local environment as part of the mission, scientists plan to find out whether it is possible to grow living organisms under conditions of lunar gravity.

Earlier research conducted on boardThe International Space Station showed that long-term exposure to microgravity can have a very bad effect on the health of at least the human body, but scientists still do not know much about what effects can be caused by the long-term effects of reduced gravity.

The question of the possibility of creating a lunar base inAt present, several space agencies are interested at once. For example, ESA (European Space Agency) expressed a desire to build an International Moon Village in the southern polar region of the satellite by the 2030s. The topic is not limited to desire alone. The agency plans to take quite concrete steps in a couple of years. As part of the joint mission of ESA and the Russian Roscosmos, a mission is planned to deliver lunar soil samples to Earth. By 2020, a robot probe is planned to be sent to the South Pole - Aitken Basin, which will take ice samples. Based on the data obtained, the question of the feasibility of building a base in this place will be considered further.

In the past, the American space agency NASAalso discussed ideas for building a base in the southern polar region of the moon. In 2014, a team of engineers from NASA met with Harvard scientists and other participants. The main topic of discussion was the topic of the prospect of reducing the cost of building a lunar base. As a result, they came up with the idea of ​​modeling a base at one of the American polar stations in Antarctica.

As for the Chang'e-4 mission, then if allwill pass as planned, then China will continue to launch robotic missions and over the next 15 years will attempt a manned mission to the moon. In addition, there is talk that China wants to build a radio telescope on a satellite. The installation will be deployed on the back of the satellite, where it will not be subject to radio distortions coming from the Earth.