China shoots for the moon

  • Opinion
  • Monday, 14 Jan 2019

Historic expedition: The screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows the lander of the Chang’e 4 probe (right) and the rover Yutu 2 taking photos of each other. — AP

TOWARDS the end of last year, China launched a major space mission to send a lunar lander to explore the far side of the moon, which is mostly unknown territory. This historic expedition that began on Dec 8 will probably help scientists to uncover more secrets about the moon.

After a 26-day space journey, Chang’e 4 became the first spacecraft to touch down on the so-called dark side of the moon. Although this area has been extensively photographed, no probe had made a soft-landing there until now.

Chang’e 4 and its lunar rover Yutu 2 are sent to perform astronomical observations; investigate landscapes, mineral compositions and geological structures of the landing site; and conduct environmental research on aspects such as neutron radiation and neutral atoms. Some pictures have been sent back.

According to China Daily, China started launching robotic probes to the moon in 2007 and has carried out several lunar missions since then.

Its next step will be the Chang’e 5 mission scheduled this year. In this exploration, a rover will be sent to collect samples from the lunar surface and bring them back.

At a science education event, held last week in conjunction with the successful landing of Chang’e 4, chief scientist of China’s lunar project, Prof Ouyang Ziyuan, promised to make it public if the mission comes across any extraterrestrial life.

Unknown territory: Yutu 2 exploring the far side of the moon.
Unknown territory: Yutu 2 exploring the far side of the moon.

He, however, said the conditions on the moon was not suitable for any form of life, including viruses and germs.

This has dashed my childhood fantasies derived from popular Chinese folklore, whose characters have lent their names to the Chinese space missions.

Chang’e is the beautiful goddess whose images are often printed on mooncake boxes. Legend has it that she was the wife of Hou Yi, a heroic archer who saved mankind and Earth when 10 suns appeared in the sky.

Hou Yi shot down nine of the suns. As a reward, he was given an elixir of immortality. But he did not consume it as he did not want to be separated from his beloved wife.

One day, Chang’e gulped down the magical potion when a villain tried to steal it. She slowly floated to the sky and decided to settle down on the moon because it is the nearest place to Earth.

Yutu, a rabbit friend of Chang’e, is believed to be hard at work at the Moon Palace, making a remedy that can hopefully send the goddess back to Earth.

There were some hilarious incidents that took place in China throughout 2018.

In one case, an undergraduate spent two days travelling nearly 4,000km from Beijing to go back to Urumqi, Xinjiang, only to find a heap of debris where his home used to be.

Apparently, his neighbourhood had been demolished for redevelopment, and his family had forgotten to inform him that they had moved elsewhere.

In Zhejiang province, a two-year-old boy was left unattended in a shopping cart for a long while outside a supermarket.

The toddler had gone there with his grandparents. After shopping, the grandfather moved everything in the cart onto his motorcycle. Except the child. The grandparents went home and realised much later that they left the boy behind.

The boy was reunited with his family about an hour later with help from the police.

Here’s another grandpa story.

In Guiyang city of Guizhou province, an old man brought home the wrong child from kindergarten. On the way home, he even took the boy for a flu jab and still did not realise that he was not the grandson.

When the parents of the boy realised that their son was missing, they viewed the surveillance camera footage and was shocked to see him leaving the kindergarten with a stranger.

They lodged a police report, thinking that the old man was a human trafficker. They also alerted other parents via a chat group.

The old man’s daughter was stunned to learn that her father was suspected to be a human trafficker. She cleared the misunderstanding. And presumably, the two boys are back with their respective families.

In July, police in Jiaxing city of Zhejiang province were presented with a silk banner by an ex-prisoner whom they arrested for operating an illegal gaming centre.

The former inmate lost nearly 20kg while serving her six-month jail term. Upon her release, she went to the police station to thank the cops, saying her health had improved and her previously high blood pressure dropped to a normal level.

In Shenzhen, a month after getting a driver’s licence, a man drove his new car to visit his driving instructor. Maybe he wanted to show off his driving skills. But he did not impress anybody when the car ended up going through the wall of the instructor’s office.

May your 2019 be filled with laughter.

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Opinion , Colours of China , Beh Yuen Hui


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