China continues to make history with their exploration of the moon, due in part to the Chang’e-4 spacecraft and its Yutu rover. The latest surprising statistic shared by Chinese scientists is just how cold the far side of the moon is. The country’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft recorded an absolutely frigid low of –310 degrees Fahrenheit (–190 degrees Celsius) which makes North America’s recent run-in with Arctic air look like a balmy hot summer day in comparison. It was thought the temperature range on the Moon was between a high of 212 degrees F (100 C) and -280 degrees F (-173 C) but now with fresh data coming in from China, scientists can better understand thermal profiles around the moon better. In addition to measuring record cold, the Chinese mission also found the surface layer of rocks/soil to be colder than expected too.
The Chang’e-4 spacecraft and the Yutu rover are exploring the far side of the moon. Also known as the “dark side” because due to tidal locking, this side of the Moon never faces the earth. For prior missions to the Moon, NASA astronauts visited the “lit” side of the Moon that faces Earth. In addition to always being in view of Earth, it’s easier to communicate, send data, and control spacecraft directly to/from Earth from the side of the Moon that faces it. While some refer to the sides of the moon as dark or light, both get the same amount of night and day as it rotates in step with the Earth.
The Chinese mission on the moon is gaining learnings ahead of planned manned missions to it. Last month, an onboard biosphere packed with six different species of plants and organisms which included fruit fly eggs, yeast, and potato, cotton, rapeseed, and Arabidopsis seeds, was deployed. The Chinese were able to successfully germinate seeds on the lunar service, but were unable to maintain the viability of the sprouts in the intense overnight cold temperatures.