Friday, 18 January, 2019

China begins first surface exploration of moon's far side

China's Yutu 2 rover moving across the far side of the moon China's Yutu 2 rover moving across the far side of the moon
Theresa Hayes | 07 January, 2019, 11:44

"Congratulations to China's Chang'e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote on Twitter.

Lunar exploration chief Wu Weiren echoed Neil Armstrong's famous quote, telling state media the event marked a "huge stride" for China. Yutu 2 has already put a fair bit of space between itself and the lander, trundling over near the rim of a small crater on the floor of Von Kármán, which itself lies within an even larger impact feature - the 1,550-mile-wide (2,500 km) South Pole-Aitken Basin. The ground control has been receiving geographic and geomorphic images of the moon's far side.

Spacecraft have taken pictures of the moon's far side before - a Soviet satellite took the first photographs of the far side in 1959, and the Apollo missions circled above it between 1968 and 1972 - but no lander has ever landed there.

China's mission is to learn more about the little-understood region of the moon and compete with the United States and Russian Federation as a powerhouse of space exploration.

"The landing on the far side shows China's technology is powerful", said He Qisong, a space expert at the East China University of Science and Law in Shanghai.

Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang'e-5, later this year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

"I think this is very good evidence that we are now able to compete with the Americans", said energy company employee Yao Dajun.

The news inspired dreamier thoughts for advertising employee Shang Yuegang. It has a maximum speed of 200 metres (220 yards) per hour and can climb a 20-degree hill or an obstacle up to 20 centimetres (8 inches) tall.

It is the second Chinese spacecraft to land on the only natural satellite of our planet, following the Yutu rover mission in 2013. Despite the moniker, the dark side of the moon does receive sunlight.