China lunar probe sheds light on the ‘dark’ side of the moon

Pablo Tucker
October 1, 2019

At 10:26 am, January 3 Beijing time, China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft made a successful soft landing in the Von Kármán crater within the Moon's South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin.

Chinese media on Thursday released the first ever close-up photos of the moon's far side, which were taken by the probe and sent to the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center.

The China National Space Administration said the spacecraft landed on the previously unexplored area at 10.26am, with official reports coming in via the country's state-run Xinhua News Agency at noon.

In a statement yesterday, the China National Space Administration said its triumphant touchdown has "opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration", and it is "willing to cooperate with space agencies, space and science research institutions and foreign space and science enthusiasts from all over the world to explore the mysteries of the universe".

Pink Floyd weren't kidding about the dark side of the moon stuff. The landing site is in the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.


China's first lunar rover Yutu suffered a mechanical fault after driving about 114 meters five years ago.

Another space programme on China's list is of collecting samples from the moon.

A year back, Karl Wolfe, a technician at the Air Force Tactical Air Command headquarters in Langley had outlandishly claimed that he had discovered artificial structures in the dark side of the moon from the data obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

As the moon is tidally locked, one side always faces away from Earth-the far side.

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. Its name comes from that of a Chinese goddess who, according to legend, has lived on the moon for millennia.


In 2003, it became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States, and in 2013 completed its first lunar "soft landing".

Scientists are particularly interested in the geology of the basin as it may help explain how the Moon formed.

Getting to the far side poses engineering challenges, a fact that kept all 27 previous landings on the near side.

The landing was "a big deal" because it used an engineering technique of the spacecraft itself choosing a safe place to touch down in treacherous terrain, something called autonomous hazard avoidance, said Purdue University lunar and planetary scientist Jay Melosh. It plans to start operating its first space station by 2022, launch probes to Mars and send astronauts out again.


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