China Makes Historic Touchdown on Moon's Far Side

James Marshall
December 1, 2019

China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe is expected to have its touch down in the dark side of the moon on Thursday. Our moon has a nifty trick: It's tidally locked to Earth, which means that one half of the lunar surface always faces us, while the other half always faces away from us. The successful soft-landing is important for space exploration because there is relatively little information about the far side of the moon compared to the side closest to Earth, which has been explored and surveyed by previous missions.

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.

Chang'e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from overseas, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the moons' far side.

Chinese media and officials hailed the December 8 launch of Chang'e 4 as one of the nation's major achievements in 2018. The final descent came about from a landing orbit 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) above the moon's surface.

The news cheered people on the streets of Beijing on Friday, many of whom said it showed that China can now achieve or even surpass what the United States has done. The Chang'e 4 entered the lunar orbit four days later after its launch, South China Morning Post reported.

While China's space program still lags America's, he said "China has already positioned itself at least as good as Russian Federation and the European Union".

China started its lunar program in 2004 and in 2013 became the third country, behind the former Soviet Union and the USA, to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon.

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.

A third objective is to study the far-side regolith, the broken up rocks and dust that make up the surface, which will help us understand the formation of the Moon.

Chang'e 4 could also contribute to radio astronomy. "This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!"

"The far side is actually much more primitive-it contains really ancient crust that dates back to the very, very early Solar System", Briony Horgan, a Purdue University planetary scientist, told NPR last month.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, following Russian Federation and the U.S. It has put two space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s.

"China is acutely aware that the U.S. have designs on space military capabilities and is looking to make sure it can match or outmatch them and develop a military force to be a credible threat".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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