Chinese spacecraft makes first landing on Moon's far side

03 January, 2019, 11:01 | Author: Donna Miller
  • China just landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon: state media

The relatively unexplored far side of the moon faces away from Earth and is also known as the dark side.

China has added a feather in its cap by landing a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.

The lunar lander and rover spacecraft, which entered an elliptical lunar orbit Sunday morning, was poised to land in the Aitken Basin near the moon's south pole at around 8.45am.

It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.

The blast-off marked the start of a long journey to the far side of the moon for the Chang'e-4 mission. Due to the fact that the Moon's period of rotation around Earth and its rotation about its axis are identical, only one hemisphere of the Moon can be observed from Earth at any point. All lunar landing probes to date travelled only to the near side, since it is easier to establish and maintain direct radio communication with the entire near side of the moon.

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It carries a number of high-end equipment which have been designed and manufactured to study and record the geology of Moon's far side that has so far not been explored.

And the new exploratory probe could return a whole host of valuable data: examining the geological make-up of the surface around the South Pole-Aitken basin, a part of the Moon we now know very little about. The collision is likely to have thrown up material from the moon's interior, meaning that Chang'e 4 could provide new clues as to how the natural satellite was formed. That mission was only a partial success, since the rover suffered serious problems and died less than two months on the Moon, although the lander is still operational.

Chang'e 4 had touched down on the surface at 10:26 a.m., the China National Space Administration said.

"The lunar farside is "Luna Incognita" and unvisited by surface landers and rovers, so any reconnaissance exploration will be of interest", Head said.

China plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples - the first time that will have been done since 1976.

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