China’s lunar rover raised a little garden on the far side of the moon and Japan’s lander visited an asteroid this year
18 December 2019
Photographer Loren Elliott
Agency Getty Images
Elon Musk’s firm SpaceX revealed its Starship, designed to carry people to the moon and Mars, in September. The stainless steel prototype pictured is the Mk1 in Texas. The project had a setback in November when a tank on the Mk1 exploded during testing, destroying part of the craft. SpaceX is working on another version, the Mk2, in Florida and has started on its third prototype. An orbital flight is expected next year.
Agency Chongqing University/CLEP
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In January, China’s lunar lander, Chang’e 4, raised a little garden of cotton plants on the far side of the moon – hinting that humans could grow food on its surface in the future. But soon after the cotton seeds sprouted, night fell and the temperature plummeted, killing off the plants. The lander is the first to touch down successfully on the far side of the moon. Its lunar rover is pictured below.
Japan’s spacecraft Hayabusa2 bombed an asteroid in April. Hovering 500 metres above the surface of Ryugu, it shot a copper projectile packed with explosives towards the rocky landscape. This sent debris into orbit (Below) and made a crater. Hayabusa2 then landed on Ryugu to collect a sample from this crater. The spacecraft is now on its way back to Earth and should reach us at the end of 2020.