China shares first Chang’e-4 Lunar far side images

DARK SIDE Chang’e-4

DARK SIDE Chang’e-4

The lander sent back images taken shortly after its touchdown as well as a photo of the rover slowly rolling across the dusty lunar surface.

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. Chang'e-4 communicates with Earth via a relay satellite in orbit around the moon, something that adds another level of complexity and risk, according to Jim Head, a researcher at Brown University who worked with Chinese colleagues to analyze Chang'e-4's landing site.

While all the Apollo-era moon human landings occurred on the significantly flatter near side of the moon, the far side has remained something of an unobtainable mystery.

The mission highlights China's growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russian Federation and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement its position as a regional and global power.

In 1959, the Soviet probe Luna 3 was the first to snap photographs of the lunar far side, with its 18 photographs revealing one-third of the moon's surface invisible from Earth.

The Chinese lunar probe, including a lander and a rover, was launched on 8 December by a Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

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China's landing was the first-ever successful "soft-landing", which means a landing without damage, on the far side of the moon.

Targeting the far side has turned this mission into a riskier and more complex venture than its predecessor, Chang'e-3 - which in 2013 touched down on the near side of the Moon, in the Mare Imbrium region.

"It's an important milestone for China's space exploration", Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar exploration programme, said, according to Xinhua. While scarce on Earth, previous observations of the far side from crewed and person-free craft make it likely a large amount is present.

China just pulled off something never accomplished in the history of mankind before: They successfully landed a probe on the far side of the moon.

One of those experiments is a biosphere project, which includes silkworm eggs, thale cress and potato seeds.

The first Chang'e spacecraft was launched in 2007 to verify China's lunar probe technology, obtain lunar images and perform scientific surveys. Its space program suffered a rare delay past year with the failed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

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