China lands probe on dark side of the moon

China lands probe on dark side of the moon

Kenneth Drake
January 4, 2019

The far side of the moon faces away from Earth and is relatively unexplored.

China reached a milestone in space exploration on Thursday after landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon for the first time in history.

A Chinese spacecraft has become to first to land on the dark side of the moon, according to state media.

The successful touch down placed the landed in Von Karaman crater located on the moon's far side South Pole-Aitken basin.

Pink Floyd weren't kidding about the dark side of the moon stuff. Its Chang'e-3 craft, which landed on the moon's Earth-facing side in 2013, was the first moon landing since the former Soviet Union touched down with its Luna 24 in 1976.

The Chang'e-4 probe is carrying six experiments from China and four from overseas, and includes low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the far side.

After the Beijing Aerospace Control Center sent an order at 10:15 a.m., the Chang'e-4 probe, launched on December 8, 2018, began to descend from 15 km above the moon with a variable thrust engine being ignited, according to CNSA. As it is not possible to shoot signals to the far side of the Moon, China launched the Queqiao satellite so it could provide a point of contact for Chang'e-4.

The chief designer of China's lunar probe program, Wu Weiren, said that mission provided valuable insights for the design of Chang'e 4, according to CNN.

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This is what the dark side of the moon looks like, from ground level.

"There are rocks all over the far side that are over 4 billion years old", she said.

Official confirmation of the landing came two hours later via state broadcaster CCTV, which said the lunar explorer had touched down at 10.26am.

With the Moon tidally locked with Earth - taking the same amount of time to spin round on its axis as it does to orbit our planet - one half of it is always hidden from view.

They may find minerals and other chemicals that tell us more about the origins of the moon, and which could also increase the likelihood of future mining missions. The lander also carries a minuscule biosphere developed by Chinese universities that will study the low-gravity interaction of a number of plants and silkworms.

Also today, China revealed the name of the rover: "Yutu 2". It's expected the lander will now extend a ramp to allow the rover to drive on to the lunar surface.

Mr Zhang He, executive director of the Chang'e-4 probe project, from the China Academy of Space Technology, said: "We chose a vertical descent strategy to avoid the influence of the mountains on the flight track".