China makes history by landing on the far side of the Moon

The 1.2-ton lander is made from backup components of the Chang'e-3 mission, which China's space program landed on Mare Imbrium on the near side of the Moon five years ago. The country last night was able to successfully land its Chang'e-4 spacecraft on the part of the moon that Earth can not see and no other spacecraft has reached before.

It's another momentous day in the history of space exploration: the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has reportedly just landed its Chang'e-4 rover on the far side of the Moon, marking the first time we've been able to explore this hidden side of the lunar surface.

The blast-off marked the start of a long journey to the far side of the moon for the Chang'e-4 mission.

Many lunar orbiters have shown the moon's two sides are very different: the near side is relatively flat, while the far side is thickly dotted with impact craters of different sizes.

Pink Floyd weren't kidding about the dark side of the moon stuff.

All this makes China's achievement even more impressive, showcasing that the world's most populous country has also become a major player in space exploration.

Chang'e 4 and some future missions are paired with a communications relay satellite named Queqiao, launched in May 2018 into a unique, largely stable orbital point between the Earth and moon that allows it to have a "view" of the far side of the moon and the Earth at the same time.


The work of Chang'e 4, which is carrying a rover, includes carrying out astronomical observations and probing the structure and mineral composition of the terrain.

The People's Daily tweeted that the probe sent the first close shot of the far side of the moon via the Queqiao relay satellite after landing.

Next up for the growing space power is said to be the Chang'e 5, which Chinese authorities hope will head to the moon next year and return to Earth with samples - a scientific feat that hasn't been done since 1976. However, Chang'e-3 landed on the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, on the moon's near side. China's space agency was quick to post new photos snapped from the lander, declaring the touchdown and deployment of its lunar rover a success. CNSA goes on to say that the spacecraft will also grow vegetables and flowers inside an airtight container.

Getting to the far side poses engineering challenges, a fact that kept all 27 previous landings on the near side. "The back of the moon is also a rare quiet place that shields the radio signal interference from the Earth".

David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences at The Open University, U.K., highlighted in a piece for The Conversation that only the USA and Soviet Union have landed spacecraft on the Moon, in missions steered by humans or which "relied on luck for a safe landing".

China carried out its first crewed space mission in 2003.


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