China's Spacecraft Makes the First-Ever Landing on Moon's Dark Side

07 January, 2019, 11:41 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Chang'e 4 spacecraft lands on far side of the Moon in world first for China

The Chang'e 4 lunar rover, launched last month, will explore the surface on the far side of the moon, the first probe to do so.

The United States isn't the only country making waves in space: China's Chang'e-4 probe has successfully landed on the far side of the Moon.

Named after the Chinese Goddess of the Moon, the Chang'e 4 made its official landing at 10:26 a.m. Beijing time on Thursday near the moon's south pole, according to the China National Space Administration state-run news agency Xinhua. Chang'e-4 communicates with Earth via a relay satellite in orbit around the moon, something that adds another level of complexity and risk, according to Jim Head, a researcher at Brown University who worked with Chinese colleagues to analyze Chang'e-4's landing site.

The far side of the moon describes the hemisphere of the moon that faces away from Earth and is relatively unexplored.

The "dark side" tag is something of a misnomer, being unrelated to the amount of light that reaches the far side of Earth's nearest neighbor.

China aims to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. The tidal lockstep means that humans can't see the far side of the moon without sending a spacecraft there, which first happened in October 1959, with the flight of the Soviet Union's Luna 3 probe.

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Chinese media and officials hailed the December 8 launch of Chang'e 4 as one of the nation's major achievements in 2018.

The Chang'e-4 unit consists of a lunar station and a lunar rover.

The so-called Chang'e 4 lunar exploration mission consists of four components: the Queqiao satellite to enable communication, two microsatellites for sky observation (only one is functioning), the lander which touched down yesterday, and the rover it contains.

One of those experiments is a biosphere project, which includes silkworm eggs, thale cress and potato seeds. It's only when we perceive the moon as being full that the far side is fully shrouded in darkness. The country aims to land a crewed flight on the moon in the coming decade.

China's lunar lander is loaded with a variety of cameras and sensors, including ground-penetrating radar to peer beneath the lunar surface, reported NPR's Joe Palca while the probe was en route. The goal for China is to have a lunar base established by 2025 and to have their own astronaut inside of it by 2030.

For now, it plans to send a Chang'e 5 probe to the Moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples.

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