Chinese spacecraft makes 1st landing on moon's far side

James Marshall
December 9, 2019

CLEP also revealed that the rover would be named Yutu 2 (Jade Rabbit 2), following on from the rover for the Chang'e-3 mission which landed on Mare Imbrium on the near side of the Moon in December 2013.

The science team also hopes to study parts of the sheet of melted rock that would have filled the newly formed South Pole-Aitken Basin, allowing them to identify variations in its composition. No other details were provided.

It's a milestone for China's lunar exploration project.

Previous Moon missions have landed on the Earth-facing side, but this is the first time any craft has landed successfully on the unexplored and rugged far side. The Queqiao relay satellite China launched in May facilitated communication with the probe. Assuming China's probe touches down successfully, it would mark the first time humans have put a machine down on the moon's dark side. State media reported the rover transmitted back the world's first close-range image of the far side of the moon.

On Thursday morning, rumors of the landing spread on Chinese social media.

Nearly twelve hours later the China Lunar Exploration Project (CLEP) announced that the rover had descended from atop the lander at 14:22 UTC.

Chang'e 4 had touched down on the surface at 10:26 a.m., the China National Space Administration said. The mission harbored some risk, because operators on Earth can not directly communicate with spacecraft on the moon's far side. Space programs in the United States and the former Soviet Union made intense efforts at lunar exploration in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. However, moon missions waned after the Soviet Union collapsed and NASA directed funds toward worldwide space stations and exploration of the rest of the solar system.

The landing appears to have been accomplished without any major issues, however, and the Chinese lander and rover will be able to begin exploring the moon's far side, an environment astronauts and spacecraft have until today only seen from afar.

In preparation for the Chang'e-4 mission to the far side of the moon, a simulation of the upcoming landing process is performed on a monitor at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China.

Of particular interest to lunar scientists is the geological and mineral makeup of the landing site, said de Grijs, who now works at Macquarie University in Sydney. There have been numerous missions to the Moon in recent years, but the vast majority have been to orbit, fly by or impact.

Because this region of the Moon is obstructed from view for scientists on Earth, the complicated mission required a satellite to first be deployed beyond the Moon so it can relay the signals.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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