Astronomy topic: Why are days so long on the Moon? 2

JISHOU, HUNAN — China’s lunar probes, Chang’E and YuTu (Jade Rabbit), are preparing for Lunar day 3 of their mission, but they’ve been on the Moon since Dec. 15. Are they lazy, or what? Considering a day on the Moon is almost two Earth weeks long, I’d say not. Time for a quick astronomy lesson. You know, I hope, that the Moon takes about 28 days to go around the Earth. This is where we get the English word “month” from (as in, “moonth,” the way they said it long ago). Like the Earth, the Moon also rotates around its axis, but much more slowly. Earth takes about 24 hours for one complete spin, the Moon, about 28 Earth days from sunrise to sunrise. Chang’E and YuTu use solar panels for power during the long lunar day. But during the lunar night, they hunker down, relying on small radioactive “batteries” to keep critical electronics warm and functioning. Since there is only one lunar day each Earth month, the two probes have only been on the Moon for three lunar days. Each work shift is about 14 Earth days long, and they “sleep” for 14 days between shifts. It is no ...

China’s Jade Rabbit moon rover oversleeps, phones home 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — YuTu was not feeling well when it turned in for the long lunar night two weeks ago, so maybe we can excuse it for sleeping an extra day. After all, its Earth-bound creators were afraid it wouldn’t wake up at all. When China’s YuTu (Jade Rabbit) hunkered down for the long lunar night, it was supposed to pull in its camera boom and fold its solar panels over itself to keep itself warm. Something malfunctioned, though, and Chinese space scientists were afraid YuTu would freeze to death waiting for the sunrise. It missed a scheduled wake-up call on Monday, and Chinese media reported the six-wheeled rover was out of commission just two months into its mission. YuTu and its companion, the lander Chang’E, arrived on Dec. 14, the first probes to make a soft landing on the Moon since the 1970s. But a day later, listeners on Earth heard its radio signal, indicating the rover had survived. Its operators are now trying to determine what happened and whether YuTu is well enough to continue its surveying mission. Details are at Universe Today. YuTu is named after the mythological rabbit who lives on the Moon, where he makes ...

Chinese lunar rover Jade Rabbit may not wake up

JISHOU, HUNAN — YuTu (玉兔), China’s first lunar rover, is experiencing some mechanical problems as it enters its second night time period on the Moon, worrying earthbound observers. Night comes to the Moon every two weeks, and temperatures drop below -180°C (-290°F). YuTu is supposed to pull in its antenna and camera, fold up its solar panels and hunker down, keeping itself warm with its radioisotope power source. Apparently, that process didn’t quite happen, and Chinese space scientists are concerned the little rabbit may not wake up again. They are reportedly scrambling for some way to remotely repair the malfunction. The lunar lander, Chang’E 3, has also gone into hibernation, but it seems to be OK. The robotic duo landed last month and quickly sent back images of the landing site in Sinus Iridum, to the delight of the Chinese and space fans worldwide. YuTu, which is named after the mythical rabbit who lives on the Moon with the goddess Chang’E, has traveled 100 meters (about 100 yards) so far. Emily Lakdawalla has a more detailed report at the Planetary Society website. Universe Today has several high-res photos, as well. This one was Chang’E’s Christmas gift to Earth.

The Story of the Jade Rabbit (Yu Tu)

Long ago, three bodhisattvas decided to test the character of the animals. They chose the fox, the monkey and the rabbit for their first test. The bodhisattvas disguised themselves as starving beggars, and each asked the fox, the monkey and the rabbit for food. The fox immediately ran off, stole a farmer’s chicken, and presented it to the first beggar. The immortal refused it, saying it was stolen and a poor offering. The monkey scampered into the trees, and came back with two bunches of bananas. The second bodhisattva also refused the offering, because the monkey only did what the beggar himself could do. The poor rabbit, who only ate grass and leaves, knew he had nothing to offer. So, he asked the third immortal to make a cook fire. Once the fire was ready, he threw himself into the flames, saying the men could eat his flesh. But the rabbit was unharmed by the fire. The immortals were so impressed by the rabbit’s generosity, that they let him live forever in the Moon Palace. They honored him further by placing his likeness on the Moon for all the world to see. If you look carefully at the full moon, ...

The story of Chang’E (version 2)

Once upon a time, there were two immortals who lived in the palace of the Jade Emperor in heaven. Their names were HouYi, an expert archer, and Chang’E, his beautiful wife. One day, the ten sons of the Jade Emperor turned themselves into ten suns. The people of Earth cried to the gods to help them, because the suns were too hot and would scorch the Earth. Chang’E and HouYi took pity on the people of Earth. HouYi took his bow and arrow, and shot down nine of the ten suns, leaving only one to keep the Earth warm for the people there. The people of Earth were very happy, of course, but the Jade Emperor was not. HouYi had killed nine of his ten sons! As punishment, he banished HouYi and Chang’E to live as ordinary people on the Earth. Now an ordinary woman, Chang’E feared growing old and losing her great beauty. HouYi loved his wife very much, and looked far and wide for something to help her. Finally, HouYi found the Witch of the West, who made him a magic pill that would give anyone immortality. But she told him, “I have made one pill for you ...

The story of Chang’E (version 1) 2

The story of Chang'E (version 1)
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little girl living in the palace of the Jade Emperor in Heaven. Her name was Chang’E 嫦娥. One day, she broke the Jade Emperor’s favorite porcelain jar. Angered, he banished her to live among the mortals on Earth. Now an ordinary human, and not a goddess, Chang’E became a simple farm girl in a well-to-do family. She grew up to be stunningly beautiful young woman. A farm boy, HouYi, fell in love with her, and they became friends. Then one day, a strange thing happened. Ten suns appeared in the sky, which would scorch the Earth and kill all the people. HouYi was an expert archer. He climbed to the top of the highest mountain, and shot down nine of the suns with his arrows. He became a hero, was made the king and of course, he married Chang’E. But fame and fortune made HouYi a little crazy. He was a cruel king, and greedy. He wanted to be immortal, like the gods. So, he spent a lot of money to get a magic pill to preserve his life. Being a little careless, King HouYi left the pill on his bedside table. ...

Chinese probe touches down on lunar surface, sends back photos 3

Chinese probe touches down on lunar surface, sends back photos
JISHOU, HUNAN — The Chang’E 3 lunar lander successfully touched down on the Moon earlier today, becoming another feather in China’s space exploration cap. After a short radio blackout, it sent back photos of its approach. Chang’E, named after the Chinese moon goddess 嫦娥, carries a six-wheeled rover, Jade Rabbit (yu tu 玉兔), also a figure in Chinese mythology. The rover, which resembles the NASA rovers exploring Mars, will deploy in a few hours to begin a three-month mission. China is only the third nation to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon, following the former Soviet Union and the USA. The lunar project follows China’s successful low-earth orbit manned missions, and is a probable prelude to a manned mission to Earth’s nearest neighbor in the next few decades. The probe has landed far north of landing sites by the Soviet Luna 9 and 16 probes, landing in 1966 and 1970, respectively, and the Apollo 11 landing in 1969. India and Japan have also sent missions to the Moon, but have not had soft landings. The last soft landing was by the Soviet Luna 24 probe, in 1976. More details are available at Space.com.

China space agency unveils shanzhai lunar rover

JISHOU, HUNAN — Rather than be new and creative for its upcoming lunar rover mission, China’s space exploration engineers have copied NASA’s Mars landers, rather like Chinese manufacturers’ notorious habit of selling counterfeit brand-name goods — called shanzhai 山寨. First, let’s see the Mars Exploration Rover and its smaller older brother, Sojourner. And now the Chinese lunar rover, due to be launched in December. See any similarities? So did China’s scientists, who worked hard to propose new designs for the state space agency. Instead, the agency went with NASA 2.1. From the South China Morning Post: It was the first time that the secretive space agency – run by the military – had invited civilian scientists to participate in a major exploration programme. Many top universities set up special teams of their best researchers, who proposed creative rover designs. Wen’s own team, for instance, offered a design with only four wheels but with a greater ability to manoeuvre over rough terrain. Civilian scientists were disappointed when authorities decided on a design they felt drew heavily on the American design. Zhu Jihong, a professor of robotics who entered the competition on behalf of Tsinghua University, said the outcome had dampened Chinese ...

In praise of mooncakes and instant noodles

JISHOU, HUNAN — Today (Sept. 14 here) is Mid Autumn Moon Day, a major occasion in East Asia for family and friends to gather and exchange gifts … Like mooncakes. These are a traditional gift, painstakingly produced by a few stalwart home cooks and many commercial bakeries. Most Chinese nowadays buy mooncakes in the grocery; the Jun Hua here has an entire aisle devoted to them, in elaborate packaging, or you can buy them individually in the bakery department. When Americans think of cake, we imagine cloyingly sweet, fluffy items like layer cakes, or hefty, cholesterol-laden things like pound cake. Mooncakes are an entirely different kind of confection. For one thing, traditionally they are not very sweet. They consist of a flour-based outer covering containing a wide variety of fillings, usually some kind of bean paste. Sometimes the yolk of a duck egg is in the middle of the bean paste filling, to represent the moon. Newer versions are sweeter, I suppose to appeal to the younger set. Traditional mooncakes are anything but fluffy. In texture, the closest Western equivalent would a fruit cake (without the fruit and nuts). They are kind of chewy, but pleasantly so, and actually pretty ...
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