Science

China's new lunar rover leaves first 'footprint' on moon's far side

China's new lunar rover leaves first 'footprint' on moon's far side

Shortly after landing, the Chang'e-4 sent a photo of the lunar surface to the Queqiao ("Magpie Bridge") satellite, which was launched last May in the first phase of the historic mission.

The lunar explorer Chang'e 4 touched down on Thursday morning Beijing time (just before 2.30am GMT), official China Central Television said.

The mission that carried the rover to the Moon launched on December 8 on top of a Long March-3B rocket, which took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan Province.

In 2013, Chang'e 3, the predecessor craft to the current mission, made the first moon landing since the former Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976.

The images show Chang'e-4's work site, as the probe begins its mission to study the mineral composition and measure radiation in the region.

The far-side landing is China's first attempt at "something that other space powers have not attempted before", Ye Quanzhi, an astronomer at Caltech, told the BBC.

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

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the heavily cratered surface, uncloaking some of the mystery of the moon's "dark side". Our moon has a nifty trick: It's tidally locked to Earth, which means that one half of the lunar surface always faces us, while the other half always faces away from us.




The moon orbits Earth at the same speed at which it rotates around its axis.

They also verified the environment parameter of the landing area, the conditions of the probe's equipment as well as the angle of incoming sunshine to make preparations for the separation of the lander and rover, the CNSA said in a statement.

While the far side of the Moon has been photographed since the 1950s, humankind has yet to successfully land there until now.

The Chang'e-4 landed in the Von Karman Crater, located in the southern hemisphere.

China landed its Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit" rover on the Moon five years ago and plans to have Chang'e 5 return to earth with samples - the first time that will have been done since 1976.

"It's an important milestone for China's space exploration", Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar exploration program, noted.

Chang'e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from overseas, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the moons' far side. China was only the third country, after Russian Federation and the US, to conduct a crewed mission. Radio waves can't reach around the moon from the far side without some kind of relay system, and Queqiao provides the missing link. China builds already now an exclusive competition event to the global space station, is mainly due to the Americans, who had rejected a few years ago a participation of China.


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