In DepthAstronomy

China's moon mission is set to probe cosmic dark ages

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  18 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6390, pp. 698
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6390.698

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


On 21 May, China plans to launch a satellite with a vital but unglamorous mission. From a vantage point beyond the moon, Queqiao, as the satellite is called, will relay data from Chang'e 4, a lander and rover that is supposed to touch down on the lunar far side before the end of the year. But a Dutch-made radio receiver aboard Queqiao will attempt something more visionary. In the quiet lunar environment, it will listen to the cosmos at low frequencies that carry clues to the time a few hundred million years after the big bang, when clouds of neutral hydrogen were spawning the universe's first stars. The mission is a proof of principle for other efforts to take radio astronomy above the atmosphere, which blocks key radio frequencies, and far from earthly interference. For Europe's astronomers, it is also a test of cooperation with China, something their U.S. counterparts at NASA are barred from doing.