China has granted NASA and other space agencies access to the “Magpie Bridge” for future lunar exploration. The “Magpie Bridge” is a crucial relay satellite launched by China in 2018, enabling data transmission and communication between the Earth and the Moon.
This collaboration represents a significant milestone in international space cooperation and opens new avenues for advancements in lunar exploration.
Facilitating Lunar Communication and Exploration
In a significant display of openness and transparency, China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) has granted NASA and other space agencies access to the Queqiao lunar relay satellite, also known as the “Magpie Bridge” for upcoming moon exploration missions.
Malaysian professor LOW Jingxiang of University of Science and Technology of China says "China has agreed the requests from NASA and other space agencies" to use Queqiao for future moon missionshttps://t.co/AEN5xDlceo@NASA, have you made the request? pic.twitter.com/gg1HLrD9T6— China 'N Asia Spaceflight 🚀🛰️🙏 (@CNSpaceflight) June 15, 2023
The Queqiao relay satellite, launched by the CNSA on May 20, 2018, This breakthrough enabled the successful soft landing of the Chang’e 4 probe on the moon’s far side, laying the groundwork for future deep space missions. It serves as a communication relay and radio astronomy satellite for the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Placed in a halo orbit around the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrangian point, the Queqiao satellite is the first-ever communication relay and radio astronomy satellite positioned at this location.
Designed to facilitate communication between Earth and the far side of the Moon, the Queqiao satellite overcomes the challenge of direct communication with the lunar surface. As transmissions are blocked by the Moon, a communications relay satellite is essential. Placing the satellite at the L2 point allows for a clear view of both the landing site and the Earth. This strategic location enables seamless data transmission and communication.
Collaborative Efforts and the International Lunar Research Station
China’s commitment to open cooperation in lunar exploration is evident through initiatives like the International Lunar Research Station project, jointly initiated with the Russian space agency in 2021. This project emphasizes collaboration and experience-sharing among leading lunar exploration countries.
Looking ahead, China plans to complete the construction of the International Lunar Research Station through missions such as Chang’e 6, Chang’e 7, and Chang’e 8. Collaborations with multiple countries will establish a comprehensive scientific experimental facility on the lunar surface and in lunar orbit, ensuring long-term operation and scalability while allowing intermittent human participation.