Chinese rover starts making tracks after landing on the moon

Chang'e 4 spacecraft lands on far side of the Moon in world first for China

Chang'e 4 spacecraft lands on far side of the Moon in world first for China

The Jade Rabbit 2 rover drove off a ramp and onto the moon at 2:22pm GMT on Thursday, about 12 hours after the Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down.

The separation of the rover - which is named after the moon goddess' pet white rabbit - went smoothly, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar project.

According to official Chinese government sponsored news media the China National Space Administration (CNSA) landed the robotic lunar lander in the unexplored South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest, deepest, crater on the lunar surface. The area available for the landing is only one eighth of that for Chang'e-3, and is surrounded by mountains as high as 10 km.

In this photo provided on January 3, 2019, by the China National Space Administration via Xinhua News Agency, an image taken by China's Chang'e-4 probe after its landing. The images of the rover are very clear despite being beamed back to Earth via a relay satellite from the moon.

Onboard Chang'e-4 is an experiment never attempted before. Previous missions to the earth-facing side of the lunar surface by the ESA and India have been described as "controlled crashes". Additionally, the data collected by Chang'e-4 and the Yutu II rover will inform China's lunar exploration program, which seeks to send taikonauts to the lunar surface by around 2030.

In a case of Star Trek meets reality, the Chinese National Space Agency has gone where no man - or spacecraft - has gone before, landing a lunar explorer on the far side of the Moon. The landing on Thursday was announced to the public by state broadcaster CCTV at the top of the noon news.

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Let's start with the farside, where China's Chang'e 4 lander touched down yesterday (Jan. 2), making China the first country to land a spacecraft there. And folks, it looks exactly like the near side of the moon.

The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power. Its plans include establishing a permanent manned space station, a manned lunar landing, and eventually probes to Mars.

The US is the only other country that has carried out moon landings.

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.

A Long March 3B rocket carrying Chang'e 4 blasted off on December 8 from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southern China.

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