Wednesday, 20 March, 2019


China: Chinese Space Agency Lands Probe on the Moon's Far Side

An artist's impression of the moon lander for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe An artist's impression of the moon lander for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe Credit Barcroft Images
Kristine Garrett | 06 January, 2019, 19:18

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.

This picture taken January 3, 2019, and received, January 4, from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a robotic lunar rover on the far side of the moon.

Shortly after the landing, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine noted the accomplishments of the Chinese space agency on Twitter: "Congratulations to China's Chang'e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon".

CLEP also revealed that the rover would be named Yutu 2 (Jade Rabbit 2), following on from the rover for the Chang'e-3 mission which landed on Mare Imbrium on the near side of the Moon in December 2013.

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.

China's growing ambitions in space go hand in hand with its more terrestrial competition with the United States.

Yung Kai-leung with a model of the Chang'e-4's camera system. However, it also carried a six-wheeled rover that Chinese scientists will use to explore the far side of the moon. During an 11-minute descent, Chang'e-4 slowed its speed from 1.7 km/s to almost zero before it landed in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The Chinese Jade Rabbit 2 rover is making tracks on the soft, snowlike surface of the far side of the moon.

"China has never said it is in a space race with the USA, and has no such intention", said Professor Wang Xiangsui, director of the Research Centre of Strategic Issues at Beihang University.

China's space program has become the first to land a spacecraft on the so-called dark side of the moon.

To communicate with researchers at the China National Space Administration, Chang'e-4 relays signals to Queqiao, a satellite that's now circling above the moon's far side in a halo orbit. China was only the third country, after Russian Federation and the USA, to conduct a crewed mission. "So it will be a very good preparation for the future potential sample return missions from the far side of the Moon and especially important and meaningful from the South Pole regions", the professor added.

However, this only refers to the side of the moon being unseen on earth - it still receives sunlight. Beijing plans to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.

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