Chinese probe successfully lands on far side of moon, sends back images

In the 21st Century Space Race China Is Winning

Launched from Xichang in southwest China's Sichuan province on Dec 8, the spacecraft is on a mission to seek out what lies on this mysterious "dark side" of the Moon, which can not be seen from the Earth as the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth and rotates at the same rate that it orbits the Earth. China's lunar rover, Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, left the first ever "footprint" from a human spacecraft on the far side of the moon late at night on Thursday, after it separated from the lander smoothly.

One of those experiments is a biosphere project, which includes silkworm eggs, thale cress and potato seeds. Its name comes from that of a Chinese goddess who, according to legend, has lived on the moon for millennia. But it will be up to the third and final phase of China's lunar exploration program, which will collect and return lunar samples, to determine the age and composition of such materials.

The rover's designer, Shen Zhenrong of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, described the far side of the moon's surface to the state broadcaster CCTV as "soft" and "similar to that when you are walking on the snow", the AP reported. According to Andrew Jones, a journalist reporting on the Chinese space program, Chang'e 4's descent required "laser ranging and optical cameras for navigation, velocity, and coarse hazard avoidance".

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

The Chang'e 4 lander proudly displays the Chinese flag.

The lander carries a rover that should be deployed sometime Friday. The other side, most of which can not be seen from the Earth, is called the far side or dark side because most of it is uncharted. Dark, in this case, just refers to unexplored.

Scientists are particularly interested in the geology of the basin as it may help explain how the Moon formed. This intrigues scientists since it has a "really ancient crust that dates back to the very, very early solar system".

"There are rocks all over the far side that are over 4 billion years old", she said. "We're really excited to see what those look like, up close".

The space craft's predecessor, Chang'e-3, managed to touch down on the near side of the moon. The un-crewed Chang'e-4 probe touched down at 10:26 a.m. Beijing time on Thursday in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. So in May 2018, China put a communications relay satellite called Queqiao into a loop 65,000 kilometers beyond the moon at Earth-moon Lagrange Point 2, a gravitationally balanced location from which the spacecraft can exchange signals with both Earth and the moon's far side.

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