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Ep. 35, Page 56
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Comic 2766 - Ep. 35, Page 56

2nd Jan 2019, 10:29 PM in Episode 35 :: Save My Place | Load My Place
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Author Notes:

smbhax 2nd Jan 2019, 10:29 PM edit delete
Two space milestones just happened:

NASA's New Horizons probe reached and sent back a photo of the furthest-ever object visited by our efforts, "snowman"-shaped, Washington D.C.-sized object "Ultima Thule" in the Kuiper Belt, 1.5 billion km past Pluto (which the probe was also the first to visit, in 2015). That far out, where it's really really cold and quiet, the object could represent a fairly primordial snapshot of our solar system.

The probe is by now past Ultima Thule; scientists hope to have it visit one more object in the outer reaches of our solar system as the craft continues to race away from the Sun.

Much closer to home, China says their Chang'e-4 probe just made the first-ever landing on the far side of our own Moon; the far side of the Moon (sometimes misleadingly called "dark" side of the Moon, but actually it gets just as much illumination as the side we can see) has been photographed by plenty of spacecraft, but this is the first to land on it—the particularly tricky part has been that direct communication to Earth from there is blocked by the Moon itself, so China managed the landing by routing communications through their Queqiao satellite, which is drifting out around a gravitationally stable point—Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2—beyond the Moon's orbit, opposite the Earth and Sun.

Chang'e-4 is due to explore a crater within the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin, "one of the largest impact craters in the Solar System and the largest, deepest and oldest basin on the Moon"; the impact that created it may have been big enough to reach down to the Moon's mantle, and thus could possibly be strewn with chunks of material thrown up from beneath the Moon's crust. The specific crater it will visit within the larger Basin crater is the Von Kármán crater, named in 1970 after Theodore von Kármán, advisor at Caltech in the '30s and '40s to Qian Xuesen who, after being detained in the US in the early '50s, accused of Communist sympathies, made it back to China and became the "father" of their space program.