China's Chang'e-4 mission lands on Moon's far side, snaps first image

Pablo Tucker
October 7, 2019

The Chang's-4 lunar probe took off on the early morning hours of December 8 past year to explore the far side of the moon from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province in southern China.

Such a landing is tricky because one side of the Moon always points towards Earth making it impossible to communicate from the "dark" half.

Months back, China launched relay satellites that help the lander and rover to remain in contact with its handlers on Earth despite not being in direct line-of-sight.

Horgan's first chance came today, when the China National Space Administration (CNSA) revealed a picture of the Moon's far side.

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. Several of the instruments aboard Chang'e 4 were previously used in the Yutu lander.

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.

The mission highlights China's growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russian Federation and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement its position as a regional and global power.

As CNN noted, the Chinese space program's last lander, Yutu (Jade Rabbit), went out of operation in 2016 after making history as the first spacecraft from a nation other than the USA or Russian Federation to make a lunar landing.

The far side of the Moon, because it faces away from Earth, isn't polluted by radio "noise" from our planet. 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".

If the moon was formed from the same material as the Earth as many lunar scientists believe, studying the South Pole-Aitken basin could provide insights into the early Earth, de Grijs said.

"Of all the programs, thanks to everyone's work and despite the high risks, most experts wanted Chang'e-4 to land on the hidden side of the moon", Weiren said. He also assured that the structures were definitely not by natural means, and suggested that the far side of the moon could be actually an alien base.

"There are rocks all over the far side that are four billion years old", she continued. Regardless of how secretive the Chinese media may be about this accomplishment, it is a giant and historic landmark in space exploration. The other side, most of which can not be seen from the Earth, is called the far side or dark side because most of it is uncharted.

There is much to explore on the far side of the Moon. It has put a pair of space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s.

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