The tension was immense, but it was released this week, when the announcement came that one of Kiel University's instruments would be on board the next Chinese mission to the moon, Chang'E 4.
"Kiel University is going to fly behind the moon!" said Jia Yu excitedly, a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics. Born in China, he will obtain his doctoral degree at Kiel University in a few months and then take over the project "Lunar Lander Neutron Dosimetry“ (LND).
"We weren't sure if we would be able to implement a project like this one from Kiel with our colleagues at the National Space Science Center in Beijing", Yu reported. For this reason all those involved are even happier that it worked out.
Now that the decision has been made, the team, led by Professor Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber, faces a major task. Within one year, the physicists in Kiel want to develop, build and mount the new LND experiment on the spaceship. In the final quarter of 2018, this should then fly to the moon. "A real challenge", said Lars Seimetz and Björn Schuster, the responsible mechanical and electronics engineers, "but really exciting. We can improve our designs that we developed for previous space missions."
Radiation measuring instruments from Kiel have been used before in space missions by the American and European space agencies NASA and ESA: On board the Mars Rover "Curiosity", the team is currently collecting data on galactic and solar particle radiation and using it to research the potential radiation exposure for manned missions to Mars.
The Kiel-based researchers provided four sensors for the "Solar Orbiter" space probe, which will also depart for space at the end of 2018 to research the sun. These sensors are to measure the spread and acceleration of solar particles. Successful experiments such as this one enabled the physicists to collect valuable experience which will be very useful when developing the LND.
The fourth Chinese mission to the moon aims to land on the side of the moon facing away from the Earth. The scientific data from the Lander and the Rover, which will then accommodate further experiments by international research teams, should then be sent to Earth via a relay satellite.
The Kiel-based experiment will measure radiation on the moon in preparation for future manned missions to the moon and - if all goes well - also measure the water content of the ground beneath the landing unit.
"To do this, we will be using a new technology developed for space to provide evidence of so-called thermal neutrons", said Wimmer-Schweingruber. The physicist is convinced that everything will be ready on time, because the group is just right: "It is incredible to be working with such a great team!" This mission also continues a long-term cooperation with the Institute of Aerospace Medicine at the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
Prof. Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber
Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics
Tel.: +49 (0)173/9513332
Dr. Boris Pawlowski | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
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