China Lands Spacecraft on 'Dark' Side of the Moon

  • China Lands Spacecraft on 'Dark' Side of the Moon

China Lands Spacecraft on 'Dark' Side of the Moon

China's Chang'e-4 mission rover mission rover has rolled down from the lander onto the lunar surface following Thursday's historic landing on the far side of the Moon.

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.

A photo taken by the lunar explorer Chang'e 4 at 11:40 a.m. and published online by the official Xinhua News Agency shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the probe. According to Andrew Jones, a journalist reporting on the Chinese space program, Chang'e 4's descent required "laser ranging and optical cameras for navigation, velocity, and coarse hazard avoidance".

The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power.

"The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger", President Xi Jinping said after becoming the country's leader in 2013.

That satellite was successfully launched back in May, and has now been used to confirm the successful landing of Chang'e-4 in the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin, which measures around 2,500 km across and 13 km deep (1,550 and 8 mi). The landing was announced by state broadcaster China Central Television at the top of its noon news broadcast. When there's a full moon in our sky, the far side is dark.

He added that China has Mars, Jupiter and asteroids in its sights: "There's no doubt that our nation will go farther and farther".

China's Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover operating on the Moon after landing in late 2013. The United States is the only other country that has carried out moon landings.

Chang'e-5 and 6 are sample return missions, delivering lunar rock and soil to laboratories on Earth. And here we are, in 2018, with another Chinese space mission goal achieved as per the deadline set.

The moon's far side isn't always dark but is sometimes called the dark side because it faces away from Earth and is relatively unknown. Some spacecraft have crashed into the far side, either after system failures, or after they had completed their mission.

Previous Moon missions have landed on the Earth-facing side, but this is the first time any craft has landed on the unexplored and rugged far side.

In May, a relay satellite "Queqiao", or "Magpie Bridge", named after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang'e 4 and Earth.

The rover will now get to work checking out this region for the first time in the history of space exploration.