China's new lunar rover leaves first "footprint" on moon's far side

Federico Mansilla
Setiembre 13, 2019

Chang'e-4 is set to carry out a number of experiments while on the moon, including planting potatoes and other seeds, low-frequency radio astronomy tests, and looking for water and other resources at the poles.

Because the far side faces away from Earth, it is also shielded from radio transmissions - making it the flawless place from which to study the universe.

China has released photos of its lunar rover leaving track marks on the far side of the moon after the country's historic landing.

Three nations - the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China - have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, but the latest landing is the first on the far side.

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". The United States is the only country that has successfully sent a person to the moon, though China is considering a crewed mission too.

The Chang'e-4 made a soft landing on the unexplored outer-reaches of the Moon at 10.26am yesterday, sending back the first close-range pictures via the Chinese-built relay satellite Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) of that astronomical neighbourhood.

Pink Floyd isn't the only one singing about the dark side of the moon now-China is too. But it will be up to the third and final phase of China's lunar exploration program, which will collect and return lunar samples, to determine the age and composition of such materials. The area where the probe has landed faces away from earth, meaning it is free from radio frequencies.

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The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, so the far side - or the "dark side" - is never visible from Earth.

He recalled mentioning the idea of such a technique for an unfunded NASA lunar mission about eight years ago, only to be told it wasn't doable at the time.

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. Its plans include establishing a permanent manned space station, a manned lunar landing, and eventually probes to Mars.

Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the China Lunar Exploration Project, called the landing a trailblazing milestone.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm for the space program in China".

"Building a space power is a dream that we persistently pursue", he said in an interview with CCTV at the Beijing Aerospace Flight and Control Center. "And we're gradually realizing it".

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