China and Europe team up to monitor the effects of solar winds


This week the Chinese lunar mission Chang’e-5 returned to Earth with loads of dust and rocks. But this important milestone in China’s collaborative space missions is just one stop on a longer journey that China’s National Space Administration and partners such as the European Space Agency have already launched.

“With Chang’e-5 coming back, [we] has spoken widely about international collaboration and the sharing of models, “Mark McCaughrean, ESA ‘s Chief Scientific and Research Advisor, told CGTN Europe.

Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of CNSA’s Lunar Exploration and Space Study Program Center, confirmed that some Chang’e-5 products would be distributed internationally. Mission deputy chief photographer Li Chunlai said some of the lunar footprints would be reserved for public display.


McCaughrean said this was part of a broader mission to develop international relations, and to continue to do work that ESA alone could not do.

“[It’s] a way to build good relationships to move on and do things together that we wouldn’t be able to do on our own, “he said. Scientifically there is a lot of work to be done on the moon and Chang’e- 5 is a key stepping stone there. “

Solar weather warning

One of the areas McCaughrean identified as an example of global collaboration is the SMILE project, which hopes to gain a greater understanding of “solar weather.”

But unlike the cloud and wind we are used to on Earth, “solar winds” affect the planet’s magnetic bubbles – and can even bring in power here when real issues hit.

“When you have major solar storms and materials emanate from the sun, an explosion can occur – something we call a major coronal eruption,” McCaughrean explained. hitting the Earth at the same time, they can knock down your power systems. “

Chang’e-5 will fly on the moon – and it won’t be the last one. / Mark Schiefelbein / AP

Chang’e-5 will fly on the moon – and it won’t be the last one. / Mark Schiefelbein / AP

“The last time this happened was in the 1850s … we were hit by one of those great storms.

“Back in the 1850s, they had telegraphs. And the power coming from the sun at that level was enough to throw the telegraph operators off their chairs because power was flowing through their wires. But imagine that now that we have all the electronics we have in the 21st century. ”

While such “mass ejections” hit the Earth are rare (McCaughrean estimates a 10 percent chance per decade), measurement, understanding, and even weather forecasting in the solar system are our vital mission in human journey into space.

“Space weather material will have a real impact on human society on Earth,” McCaughrean warned. “And to be honest, we’re not ready for it. So there’s a lot of work to be done to harden our systems. ”

Video editor: Riaz Jugon