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SPACE.com Columnist Leonard David

A Tiny Chinese Lunar Orbiter Just Crashed on the Moon's Far Side (on Purpose)

Earth photobombs the far side of the moon in this color-corrected photo taken by China's Longjiang-2 microsatellite on Feb. 4, 2019, at 10:20 a.m. EST (1520 GMT).
Earth photobombs the far side of the moon in this color-corrected photo taken by China's Longjiang-2 microsatellite on Feb. 4, 2019, at 10:20 a.m. EST (1520 GMT).
(Image: © MingChuan Wei/Harbin Institute of Technology/CAMRAS/DK5LA)

China's tiny lunar orbiter Longjiang-2, also known as DSLWP-B, crashed intentionally into the moon's far side on July 31, according to media reports.

The 104-lb. (47 kilograms) Longjiang-2 was sent into space on May 21, 2018, along with the Chang'e 4 lunar probe's relay satellite, and entered orbit around the moon four days later. (Longjiang-2's sister satellite, Longjiang-1, failed to reach lunar orbit.)

The small spacecraft operated in orbit for 437 Earth days, exceeding its one-year designed lifespan. It was then brought down in a controlled fashion at 10:20 a.m. EDT (1420 GMT; 10:20 p.m. Beijing time) on July 31, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing the China National Space Administration's Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center as a source.

"The micro satellite carried an ultra-long-wave detector, developed by the National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, aiming to conduct radio astronomical observation and study solar radiation," Xinhua wrote

"As a part of the international cooperation behind China's Chang'e 4 mission, Longjiang-2 also carried an optical camera developed by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology of Saudi Arabia," the news agency added. "The camera has captured 30 high-definition images of the moon."

Rest in pieces

"There is a new crater on the Moon," Cees Bassa, a satellite observer and astronomer working at ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, tweeted on July 31

"We are already 5 minutes past the moment DSLWP-B would have appeared from behind the Moon if it had not crashed. The fact that we are no longer receiving signals means it has impacted the lunar surface. RIP DSLWP-B," Bassa added in the same tweet.

The collision with the moon was planned since January of this year and was done as a means to end the mission without leaving debris in lunar orbit, amateur radio expert Daniel Estévez wrote in a recent blog post.

Estévez explained in an earlier post that, on Jan. 24, the periapsis (low point) of the lunar orbit of DSLWP-B was lowered by approximately 310 miles (500 kilometers), so that orbital perturbations would eventually force the satellite to collide with the moon.

Leonard David is author of the recently released book, "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime writer for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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