Don Lee: China collects moon dust, telescope to view the galaxy

Published 8:48 am Sunday, January 3, 2021

I hope you had a pleasant, virus-free Christmas holiday.
I bring some news about space this week.
The Chinese had a successful round-trip to the moon. Their Chang’e 5 rocket was able to scoop up about 4.5 pounds of moon rocks and dust and bring it home.
Some of our space people are concerned that the Chinese will be able to establish a lunar base before we are able to do it.
Space Force Operations chief Gen. John Raymond says, “China has gone from zero to 60 real quick.” He is also concerned that China is developing the capability to destroy or disable U.S. satellites, which would cripple our worldwide communication and navigation capability.
Our Artemis project is scheduled to send supplies to the moon in 2024 preparing to put a man and woman on the moon at a later date.
The name Artemis from Greek mythology is fitting because Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon. The project is expected to cost $35 billion. Of course, with the new administration, the priorities may be changed. They could go up or be lowered to provide funds for other projects.
There is a flurry of activity around retrieval of samples from beyond Earth.
NASA is working with the European Space Agency on Phase A of the Mars Sample Return mission, which was reported in the publication, SlashGear.
NASA has a long way to go to develop a lander and Earth Return Orbiter(ERO). The idea is for the Mars Lander to retrieve the sample and return it to an Earth Return Orbiter. After the transfer takes place, the ERO will then start the long trip back to the Earth. Besides the successful return of Chinese lunar rock sample, Japan has retrieved a sample of dust from an asteroid.
Another exciting space project is the James Webb space telescope. It has a mirror of 273 square feet which is six times the area of the Hubble. It will be positioned at the LaGrange point, which is a sort of gravitational-neutral point between the earth and the sun. It is way out there at 930,000 miles from the earth.
One problem is at that distance, it cannot be serviced or repaired by astronauts, as was the Hubble which was only 340 miles away.
The Webb telescope is designed to operate at -370 degrees Fahrenheit, since that temperature is needed for infrared spectrum searching.
To stay that cool is has to be shaded from sun radiation.
The plan is shield it with this huge umbrella of aluminum coated on one of five layers of plastic. It has an area of over 3,350 square feet.
In tests, the first time they tried to unfurl it, it tore, which set the program back several months.
Other delays were caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The projected launching date is now the last of part of October 2021.

Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at

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