China lands probe on dark side of the moon

China's'Yutu 2 Chang'e-4 rover is now rolling on the far side of the Moon                
          by                     Andrew Jones

Several of the instruments aboard Chang'e 4 were previously used in the Yutu lander.

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

It delivered both a lander and a rover, while its Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) relay satellite "is operating in the halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the Earth-Moon system", Xinhua added.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe, launched in December, made the "soft landing" at 0226 GMT and transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the dark side of the moon, the China National Space Administration said.

Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said: "There's a lot of geopolitics or astropolitics about this, it's not just a scientific mission, this is all about China's rise as a superpower".

The United States is so far the only country to have landed humans on the moon.

Close-up view of the wheel of the Chang'e-4 rover 'Yutu 2
China lands probe on dark side of the moon

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

The moon's far side isn't always dark but is sometimes called the dark side because it faces away from Earth and is relatively unknown. 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. Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia contributed payloads that will measure radiation and use low-frequency radio astronomy to listen for faint signals lingering in the cosmos since the formation of the universe's first stars, among other things.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, becoming only the third country to do so after Russian Federation and the United States. Direct communications with spacecraft on the far side are blocked by the moon itself. Its plans include establishing a permanent manned space station, a manned lunar landing, and eventually probes to Mars.

The landing showed China's space program had achieved the technological capability required for a tricky project, said Richard de Grijs, an astrophysics professor who was until past year based at Peking University's Kavli Institute.

"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.

More than a hundred agency personnel watched nervously from the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Centre as the probe began to reduce power 15km from the Moon. "And we're gradually realizing it".

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