Chang'e-4 Makes Historic Landing On Far Side Of Moon

Federico Mansilla
Setiembre 21, 2019

Chang'e-4 will provide a heap of information about the part of the moon which is never seen from the Earth including surface temperature, chemical make up of the soil and an incredible view into deep space, but what was carried with the lander is the most peculiar.

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

"The process was recorded by the camera on the lander and the images were sent back to the Earth via the relay satellite "Queqiao"," the report said, quoting China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The landing showed China's space program had achieved the technological capability required for a tricky project, said Richard de Grijs, an astrophysics professor who was until previous year based at Peking University's Kavli Institute.

China's first lunar lander, the Chang'e-3, soft-landed on the near-side of the Moon in 2013, becoming the first spacecraft to do so since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976.

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.

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The lander touched down in Von Kármán crater, in the Moon's southern hemisphere, at 11:26 p.m. ET, Jan 2, 2019 (10:26 a.m. Beijing time, Jan 3).

While you've been watching Ultima Thule, China has landed a spacecraft on the far side on the moon in what is a giant leap for its space program. Thursday's landing was announced to the public by state broadcaster CCTV at the top of the noon news. The South Pole-Aitken Basin, which measures 2,500km in diameter and is 13km deep, is also the largest, deepest and oldest impact crater on the Moon, and may yield secrets of its evolution to the Chang'e-4. The final descent came about from a landing orbit 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) above the moon's surface.

And the China National Space Administration won't be resting on its laurels following this history-making rendezvous. Humans have managed to take pictures of this region, but no human-made probe has ever explored this dark, cold part of the lunar surface.

It also carried cotton, rapeseed, potato, Arabidopsis, fruit fly and yeast samples to form a mini biosphere in the lifeless environment, said state news agency Xinhua. The United States is the only country that has successfully sent a person to the moon, though China is considering a crewed mission too.

Infographic of the Chang'e-4 lunar landing mission.

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