China lunar probe sheds light on 'dark' side of the moon

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral

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

The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power.

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.

A Chinese lunar rover landed on the dark side of the moon at 10:26 am on Thursday, Beijing time, marking the start of the first exploration of a place that can not be seen from Earth. Because the moon circles the earth every 27.3 days in a synchronous rotation the side of the moon where Chang'e 4 landed remains facing away from earth.

The relay satellite was launched in May and is now running on a halo orbit about 65,000km from the Moon, where it can see both Earth and the Moon's far side.

Some analysts observing the Chinese moon mission have suggested this landing location on the moon could become a refueling station for future spacecraft tasked with deep-space exploration.

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.

After the Beijing Aerospace Control Center sent an order at 10:15 a.m., the Chang'e-4 probe, launched on December 8, 2018, began to descend from 15 km above the moon with a variable thrust engine being ignited, according to CNSA.

Chinese space experts chose the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin as the landing site for Chang'e-4, amid rugged, high mountains and lofty hills.

In addition, this part of the Moon is not visible from Earth due to a phenomenon known as tidal locking. When there's a full moon in our sky, the far side is dark.

An artist's conception shows the Chang'e-4 mission's rover on the lunar surface. In the States, NASA has announced its own plans to land astronauts on the moon and eventually colonize Mars in the coming decades. The United States is the only other country that has carried out moon landings.

The China National Space Administration agency launched Chang'e-4 in December from its center in Xichang, southwest China. These are the first images captured from the surface.In addition, Purdue University planetary scientist Briony Horgan's name was misspelled as Briorny.

Chang'e 4 entered an elliptical path around the moon at the weekend, drawing as close as 15km from the surface. Several of the instruments aboard Chang'e 4 were previously used in the Yutu lander.

Communications were facilitated by a relay satellite that was sent to a gravitational balance point about 33,000 miles beyond the moon last May.

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