China's upgraded lunar rover drives on moon's far side — China Focus

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

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

It's another momentous day in the history of space exploration: the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has reportedly just landed its Chang'e-4 rover on the far side of the Moon, marking the first time we've been able to explore this hidden side of the lunar surface.

"On the whole, China's space technology still lags behind the West, but with the landing on the far side of the moon, we have raced to the front", said Hou Xiyun, a professor at Nanjing University's school of astronomy and space science. 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 spacecrafts are aptly named after the legend of the Chinese goddess Chang'e, who is said to have lived on the moon for a Millennia.

Such a landing is tricky because one side of the Moon always points towards Earth making it impossible to communicate from the "dark" half. However, moon missions waned after the Soviet Union collapsed and NASA directed funds toward global space stations and exploration of the rest of the solar system. Instead, Chang'e 4 used hazard-avoidance software to check for dangers at the landing site, as David Rothery explains at The Conversation today.

"How to solve that problem so that it won't happen again was the main challenge in developing the new rover", said Zhang Yuhua, another deputy chief designer of the probe. On Jan. 3, the Chang'e 4 spacecraft, which includes a rover, performed a soft landing in the moon's Von Karman crater.

The China National Space Administration released a photo taken by the lander showing tracks left by the rover as it departed the spacecraft, though it did not specify how far the rover travelled.

The Chang'e 4 craft, launched December 8 from Sichuan Province, also succeeded in sending back images of the moon's far side after touching down, state-run Chinese Central Television reported. However, it is metaphorically dark, in that the moon's rotation acts to keep that side facing away from the Earth as it progresses round its orbit, and its nature was unknown before the space age.

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The area of the Moon expected to be examined is 24,000 kilometers across and 13 kilometers deep crater, known as called Aitken Basin Von Kármán.

"There are rocks all over the far side that are four billion years old", she continued.

"So when what we call mining in space, resource utilisation in space - whether by the moon, Mars or asteroids - becomes more and more of a reality, what we'll see is a bigger and bigger issue". Knowing the age and chemical composition of this crash zone would help understand Earth's ancient history better, said Purdue's Melosh. Chang'e-4's observations could give clues to the processes behind the differences.

The far side of the moon was first photographed in 1959, and missions from Europe, India, Russia and America in the last two decades have already mapped it.

It's hard to believe it's been almost 60 years since humans were treated to our first glance at the far side of the Moon.

While China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the U.S. Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aiming to prevent other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis. Its space program suffered a rare setback a year ago with the failed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

Space development is a priority for Beijing's "Made in China 2025" initiative to develop cutting-edge industries. "And we're gradually realizing it".

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