Chinese rover 'Jade Rabbit' drives on far side of the moon

The Yutu 2 rover moving farther across the moon's surface

On Wednesday night (Jan. 2), the Chang'e 4 rover and its stationary-lander companion pulled off the first-ever soft touchdown on the lunar far side, coming to a rest inside the 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) Von Kármán Crater.

The far side of the moon is more rugged than the near side, so Chinese officials adjusted the descent trajectory for the Chang'e 4 mission to a more vertical profile from the curved profile used on Chang'e 3, China's previous lunar lander which touched down on the near side in 2013.

Both Yutu 2 and the lander sport four science instruments, which they'll use to study the surrounding dirt and rocks and probe the far side's subsurface.

China's Chang'e 4 craft on Thursday became the first to land on the far side.

The Yutu-2 rover, equipped with a data transmission link to relay with the Queqiao satellite, completed environment perception and route planning.

The radar and panorama camera on the rover have been operating smoothly and other devices will begin operation according to schedule.

This picture taken on December 8, 2018 shows a Long March 3B rocket, transporting the Chang'e-4 lunar rover, lifting off from the Xichang launch centre in Xichang in China's southwestern Sichuan province.

Researchers hope that low-frequency observations of the cosmos from the moon's far side, which blocks radio signals from Earth, will help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and even the birth of the universe's first stars.

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

It then released a rover, named Yutu-2, which rolled out onto the surface down a ramp.

The landing has been hailed as an important technical feat. Despite the moniker, the dark side of the moon does receive sunlight.

China's space program lags America's, but has made great strides in the past 15 years, including manned flights and a space laboratory that is seen as a precursor to plans for a space station.

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