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Jason DavisJune 14, 2018

Chinese satellite snags new views of Earth from lunar orbit

On May 20, China launched Queqiao, a lunar communications relay satellite for the upcoming Chang'e 4 lander and rover mission. On the way out to the Moon, it dropped off a pair of small satellites bound for lunar orbit called Longjiang-1 and Longjiang-2. The satellites weigh just 45 kilograms each and measure 50-by-50-by-40 centimeters. Their purpose is testing out future radio astronomy and interferometry techniques, and one also has a camera built by Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately, Longjiang-1 had a problem and didn't make it into lunar orbit. Longjiang-2, however, was successful, and sent home a few pictures! Check them out:

Half-Earth and Moon from Longjiang-2


Half-Earth and Moon from Longjiang-2
The Earth as seen from Longjiang-2, with Petropavlovskiy crater in the foreground.
Crescent Earth and Moon from Longjiang-2


Crescent Earth and Moon from Longjiang-2
The Earth as seen from Longjiang-2, with several labeled lunar features in the foreground.

And here's a view of the surface:

Rima Brayley from Longjiang-2


Rima Brayley from Longjiang-2

Quegiao, meanwhile, has arrived in its complex halo orbit around the second Earth-Moon LaGrange point, from where it can see both the Moon and Earth at the same time. Change'4 is expected to launch in December.

Read more: pics of Earth by planetary missions, Chang'e 4, Chang'E program

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Jason Davis

Editorial Director for The Planetary Society
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