Chinese Rover Lands on Dark Side of the Moon, First Photos Released

A simulated landing process of Chang'e-4 lunar probe is seen through the monitor at Beijing Aerospace Control Center

A simulated landing process of Chang'e-4 lunar probe is seen through the monitor at Beijing Aerospace Control Center

One challenge of sending a probe to the moon's far side is communicating with it from Earth, so China launched a relay satellite in May to enable Chang'e 4 to send back information. At 10:26 am, January 3 Beijing time, China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft made a successful soft landing in the Von Kármán crater within the moon's South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin.

As China's space agency CNSA explains in a new post on its website, the Chang'e 4 lander arrived on schedule on the Moon's surface and quickly deployed the Yutu rover. It comprises two pieces of hardware, the main lander, and a rover and has been built initially as a backup for the 2013 Chang'e-3 mission.

Chang'e 4, a combined lander and rover, will make astronomical observations and probe the structure and mineral composition of the terrain above and below the surface.

The landing is the latest step for China in its race to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States and become a major space power by 2030.

Fitted with cameras, ground-penetrating radar and other tools, Chang'e-4 was created to help scientists answer lingering questions about our moon's geologic past. This latest Chang'e-4 mission, writes Xinhua, intends to "provide firsthand data and clues for the evolution of the moon, earth and solar system". While the far side is sometimes called the "dark" side, that's relative to our lack of knowledge about it: The phases of the moon seen from Earths still occur, in reverse, on the opposite side.

The spacecraft, which blasted off into the heavens on December 7, was in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, swinging within 15 kilometres (nine miles) of the lunar regolith.

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The area of the Moon expected to be examined is 24,000 kilometers across and 13 kilometers deep crater, known as called Aitken Basin Von Kármán. Its mission will be to obtain geological samples on the near side of the moon and send these back to Earth. The United States is the only country that has successfully sent a person to the moon.

Since the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces the Earth.

Chang'e 4 touched down on the moon's far surface at 10.26 Beijing time (9.26pm EST) last night, state media reports.

The transfer mechanism unlocked as planned with one side reaching the moon's surface, allowing the rover to descend to the surface from the slope.

What is the "far side of the Moon"? Beijing plans to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.

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