China lands first probe on the dark side of the moon

The launch of Chang'e 4 lunar probe

The launch of Chang'e 4 lunar probe

The far side of the moon is relatively unexplored and communication is hard because it always points away from Earth and signals could be blocked.

China's Chang'e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon Thursday, becoming the first spacecraft soft-landing on the moon's uncharted side never visible from Earth.

The mission left Xichang Satellite Launch Center on December 8 and was reported to have reached lunar orbit four days later. "China views this landing as just a steppingstone, as it also views its future manned lunar landing, since its long-term goal is to colonize the moon and use it as a vast supply of energy".

Landing on the far side means that the Moon will separate the spacecraft from Earth, making it impossible for the probe to communicate directly with our planet.

To overcome that, a satellite named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) after an ancient Chinese folk tale was blasted into the moon's orbit in May, to act as a link between the lander and Earth.

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface there, and it is no easy technological feat - China has been preparing for this moment for years.

Chang'e 4 will perform several experiments while on the Moon, including testing whether plants will grow in the low gravity environment, exploring the poles to find water or other resources, observing the interaction between solar winds and the lunar surface, and conducting the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment. The rover will also test minerals and radiation. Its success provided a major boost to China's space programme.

China's latest moon shot will pave the way for the country to deliver samples of lunar rock and dust to Earth.

It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.