China begins first surface exploration of moon's far side

Yutu-2 China's lunar rover leaves wheel marks after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon. — AP

Yutu-2 China's lunar rover leaves wheel marks after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon. — AP

He posted: "Congratulations to China's Chang'e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon".

A Chinese lunar rover has driven on the far side of the moon, the national space agency announced on Friday, hailing the development as a "big step for the Chinese people".

This would be a historic achievement for mankind as a whole as the rugged terrain of the Moon's far side has made it hard for vehicles to land safely there.

In this photo provided January 3, 2019, by China National Space Administration via Xinhua News Agency, Yutu-2, China's lunar rover, leaves wheel marks after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon.

Yutu-2, atop the probe, extended its solar panel, stretched out its mast and started to slowly fly to the lunar surface Thursday night.

The new images show the craft's rover, called Yutu 2, beginning to move across the lunar surface.

"The Chang'e-4, carrying eight payloads, will conduct low-frequency radio astronomical observation, survey the terrain and landforms, detect the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure and measure the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the Moon".

"This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration", Zhu Menghua, a professor at the Macau University of Science and Technology who has worked closely with China's space administration, told The New York Times.

The Chinese rover has six powered wheels, allowing it to continue to operate even if one wheel fails.

The Yutu 2 rover moving farther across the moon's surface. It has a maximum speed of 0.1 miles per hour and can climb a 20-degree hill or mount an obstacle up to 8 inches tall, the report said.

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.

Chang'e 4's images and data come home via a relay satellite called Queqiao, which is parked at a gravitationally stable spot beyond the moon.

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