QR.bizNewsChinese rover 'Jade Rabbit' drives on far side of the moon

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

China's burgeoning space program achieved a lunar milestone on Thursday: landing a probe on the mysterious and misnamed "dark" side of the moon.

With the Moon tidally locked with Earth - taking the same amount of time to spin round on its axis as it does to orbit our planet - one half of it is always hidden from view.

Months back, China launched relay satellites that help the lander and rover to remain in contact with its handlers on Earth despite not being in direct line-of-sight.

"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", state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral makeup, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side.

The Chang'e 4 was landed within the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin, the moon's largest, deepest, and oldest impact structure, according to Long Xiao, a planetary geoscientist at China University of Geosciences in Wuhan.

Aside from its home-grown equipment, the Chang'e 4 also has four scientific payloads developed by scientists from other countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden.

The spacecraft, which has a lander and a rover, was launched on top of a Long March 3B carrier rocket on December 8 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province.

He recalled mentioning the idea of such a technique for an unfunded NASA lunar mission about eight years ago, only to be told it wasn't doable at the time.

NASA administrators have said people could be put on Mars by as soon as the mid-2030s, with the agency having landed eight spacecraft there, the most recent in November.

"The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger", President Xi Jinping said after becoming the country's leader in 2013.

China will return to the moon in 2020 using the Chang'e 5 spacecraft that will perform lunar surveys and collect samples from the lunar surface and return them to Earth.

Chang'e 4 could also contribute to radio astronomy.

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb said that in the future, it may be possible to see much farther - and thus earlier - into the universe from the far side because the moon itself will block interfering radio signals from Earth.

"Scientists believe that the back of the moon is more ancient than the front", CNSA explains (via translation).

It's thought that the basin was created by a huge collision early in the Moon's history - which means materials from lower down in the Moon's mantle that we haven't been able to get to yet could be exposed in this region. "And we're gradually realizing it".

China Makes Historic Touchdown on Moon's Far Side

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