Chinese craft lands on 'dark' side of moon

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China became the first country to make a soft landing on the far side of the moon Thursday, bolstering its signature "Made in China 2025" initiative and taking a major step toward becoming the world's third space power along with the USA and Russian Federation by 2030.

Finally, at noon, the nation's state-owned television network CCTV announced in a 40-second segment at the top of the news that the Chang'e-4 had made its historic touchdown.

The first photos from the landing, shared by the China National Space Administration on Thursday, show the first close-ups of the far side of the moon's cratered surface.

The mission will also conduct the first astronomy observations from the moon's far side, which is seen as a uniquely attractive site for monitoring radio waves coming from deep space.

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the moon's mysterious and heavily cratered "dark side".

In year-end wrap-ups, Chinese media and officials hailed the December 8 launch of Chang'e 4 as one of the nation's major achievements in 2018.

In May, a relay satellite "Queqiao", or "Magpie Bridge", named after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang'e 4 and Earth.


Following its soft-landing on the far side of the moon, China's Chang'e-4 probe returned this image.

An image from a simulated landing of the Chang'e-4 on the first landing on the moon's uncharted far side. The chief designer of China's lunar exploration programme, Wu Weiren, has described Thursday's landing as "an important milestone" for the country's space effort, state media report. The area where the probe has landed faces away from earth, meaning it is free from radio frequencies.

It is known as the far side because only the near side of the Moon can be seen from Earth, as the Moon takes the same time to spin on its axis as it takes to complete one full orbit.

The rover will now get to work checking out this region for the first time in the history of space exploration. Orbiting the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrangian point, Queqiao is in a position to relay data to and from the lander.

A third objective is to study the far-side regolith, the broken up rocks and dust that make up the surface, which will help us understand the formation of the Moon. The United States is the only country that has successfully sent a person to the moon, though China is considering a crewed mission too.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, becoming only the third country to do so after Russian Federation and the United States. Its space program suffered a rare setback previous year with the failed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

Using a simulation at Beijing Aerospace Control Center, the landing process of the upcoming Chang'e-4 is studied and perfected. "And we're gradually realizing it".

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