NASA Lunar Orbiter Spots Chinese Satellite's Crash Site on Far Side of Moon

NASA Lunar Orbiter Spots Chinese Satellite's Crash Site on Far Side of Moon

The Chinese National Space Administration launched the Longjiang-2 satellite towards the Moon along with the Queqiao relay communications satellite on May 20, 2018. The small spacecraft, which weighed nearly 100 lbs, was designed to work with its twin, Longjiang-1, to validate technologies for low-frequency radio astronomy observations

Fremont, CA: Chinese spacecraft Longjiang-2, known as the Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths Pathfinder or DSLWP-B, had crashed onto the far side of the lunar surface on July 31 after completing its orbital mission. On November 14, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission spotted the Chinese spacecraft's crash site, where it had left behind a mark.

The Chinese National Space Administration launched the Longjiang-2 satellite towards the Moon along with the Queqiao relay communications satellite on May 20, 2018. The small spacecraft, which weighed nearly 100 lbs, was designed to work with its twin, Longjiang-1, to validate technologies for low-frequency radio astronomy observations. The Chinese satellite was designed to orbit around the Moon for a year. The satellite exceeded that estimate, but its mission still needed to come to an end, and China wanted to crash the spacecraft to ensure it wouldn't clutter up the lunar orbit.

The impact of the Chinese satellite crash has created a new lunar crater. The crater is 13 feet by 16 feet with the long axis oriented southwest to northeast. Led by amateur radio operator Daniel Estévez of Tres Cantos, Spain, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team estimated that the small spacecraft impacted the lunar surface somewhere within Van Gent crater (16.69 degrees North, 159.52 degrees East). These coordinates were used by the LROC team to image the area on October 5. Through a careful comparison of pre-existing LROC Narrow-Angle Camera images, the LROC team located a new impact crater just 1,076 feet from the estimated site.

Leader of the LROC team Mark Robinson praised the team led by Daniel for spotting the crash site. China started its lunar exploration program back in 2003 but has recently made some significant breakthroughs. Namely, Beijing launched the first drone to the far side of the Moon, which has remained relatively unexplored. The drone successfully landed in January 2019, conducted studies of the surface, and carried out some experiments. 

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