tech2 News StaffFeb 07, 2019 14:29:17 IST
One of NASA's robotic moon-studying robots has caught a glimpse of China's historic Chang'e-4 probe.
On 3 December 2018, Chang'e-4 became the first mission in the world to make a soft landing on the far side of the moon — which has rarely been photographed, let alone explored — in the previous moon missions.
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been mapping the moon's surface in great detail since 2009, captured the Chinese lander in action as it passed overhead on 30 January.
While the orbiter captured the lander on the moon's surface, the mission's Yutu-2 rover dodged detection.
The lander also carried with it an experiment in biology — climate-controlled canisters with fruit-fly eggs and a variety of plant seeds, including cotton. The cotton seeds sprouted, becoming the first non-human living things to have made it to another celestial object (except the microbes that hitch-hiked on NASA’s Apollo spacecraft to the moon).
Unfortunately, the cotton seedling sprouted just in time to freeze during the mission's first experience of nighttime on the moon (these last two Earth weeks!). Without sunlight to power the mission, the lander and its operations were put to sleep to prevent any cold-damage. This exposed the canisters and seedlings to the harsh negative 190-degree temperatures on the moon's surface, which killed the tiny (and famous) seedling in an instant.