Chinese rover ‘Jade Rabbit’ drives on far side of the moon

James Marshall
October 7, 2019

China became the first nation to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon Thursday morning, in what has been called a groundbreaking achievement for the country's growing space program and for space exploration generally.

The Chang's-4 lunar probe took off on the early morning hours of December 8 a year ago to explore the far side of the moon from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province in southern China. Since then, China has launched their China Lunar Exploration Programme - also known as the Chang'e program - which encompasses multiple robotic moon missions by China's nodal space agency, the CNSA.

A photo taken at 11:40 a.m. and sent back by Chang'e 4 shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the lunar explorer. According to NASA, the name refers to the "to a Chinese folktale about magpies forming a bridge with their wings to allow Zhi Nu, the seventh daughter of the Goddess of Heaven, to reach her husband". Just $5 a month.

"The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger", President Xi Jinping said in 2013, shortly after becoming China's leader. According to National Geographic, though CNSA is secretive, previous reports indicated it was targeting the Von Kármán crater located in the Moon's South Pole-Aitken basin, the latter of which is "a low-lying feature more than 2,414km across that covers almost a quarter of the Moon's surface", in addition to one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System. But it was this mystery that encouraged China to set out for the discovery, he added. Specifically, scientists hope to study the composition of the sheet of melted rock that filled the basin right after it was formed, and possibly even the upper-mantle materials of the moon.

The rover's designer, Shen Zhenrong of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, described the far side of the moon's surface to the state broadcaster CCTV as "soft" and "similar to that when you are walking on the snow", the AP reported.

This mission is just one step in China's ambitious plans for the Moon which began with orbiters and will eventually end with a mission to retrieve lunar soil samples and return them to Earth.

For the first time in history, a spacecraft has landed on the far side of the Moon.

It was only in 1959, when the first images of the far side were beamed back by the Soviet Union's Luna 3, that intriguing differences were revealed.

"The far side of the moon is a rare quiet place that is free from interference from radio signals from Earth", mission spokesman Yu Guobin said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

It is known as the far side because only the near side of the Moon can be seen from Earth, as the Moon takes the same time to spin on its axis as it takes to complete one full orbit.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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