Science

Chinese spacecraft is first to land on dark side of the moon


A Chinese spacecraft has made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon as it transmitted a never-before-seen image of the unexplored surface.

The lunar explorer Chang’e 4 touched down at 10.26am (2.26am GMT) local time and took the ‘close range’ photograph in a global first. 

The pioneering landing demonstrates China’s growing ambitions to rival the US as a space power. 

Beijing is pouring billions into the military-run programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.

The far side of the moon faces away from Earth and is relatively unexplored. Unlike the near side that always faces the earth, it is mountainous and rugged.

Scroll down for video

A never-before-seen 'close range' image taken by the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e 4 of the surface of the far side of the moon

A never-before-seen ‘close range’ image taken by the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4 of the surface of the far side of the moon

A photograph taken from the Chang'e-4 probe during its landing process, as it became the first rover to ever reach the surface of the dark side of the moon

A photograph taken from the Chang’e-4 probe during its landing process, as it became the first rover to ever reach the surface of the dark side of the moon

Chang'e-4 has been described as 'hugely ambitious' and heralded as a sign of China's growing intentions to rival the space exploration prowess of the US, Russia and the EU

Chang’e-4 has been described as ‘hugely ambitious’ and heralded as a sign of China’s growing intentions to rival the space exploration prowess of the US, Russia and the EU

The Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission – named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology – launched last December from the southwestern Xichang launch centre.

It is the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu rover mission in 2013.

The probe entered orbit on Sunday ‘to prepare for the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon’, the China National Space Administration said.

China had refused to reveal when the landing would occur.

In an update on January 1, China’s Central Television confirmed the January 3 landing date, though without word on the exact time. 

Chang’e-4 will target the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater, the largest in the entire solar system at 15,000 miles (24,000km) across and eight miles deep.

The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, so the far side – or the ‘dark side’ – is never visible from Earth. 

Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon, but none has landed on it.

Chang'e-4 (pictured in a simulation) will target the South Pole-Aitken basin's Von Karman crater, the largest in the entire solar system at 15,000 miles across and eight miles deep

Chang’e-4 (pictured in a simulation) will target the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater, the largest in the entire solar system at 15,000 miles across and eight miles deep

The Chang'e-4 (artist's impression pictured), entered lunar orbit earlier this week, and will soon be the first ever rover to land on the far side of the lunar surface. A lander will help guide the spacecraft to the dark side of the moon

The Chang’e-4 (artist’s impression pictured), entered lunar orbit earlier this week, and will soon be the first ever rover to land on the far side of the lunar surface. A lander will help guide the spacecraft to the dark side of the moon

The Chang'e-4 lunar rover is lifted into space from the Xichang launch centre in Xichang in China's southwestern Sichuan province on December 8

The Chang’e-4 lunar rover is lifted into space from the Xichang launch centre in Xichang in China’s southwestern Sichuan province on December 8

China launched the Chang’e-4 probe earlier this month, carried by a Long March-3B rocket. 

It includes a lander and a rover to explore the surface of the moon.

Xinhua said the probe had entered an elliptical lunar orbit at 08.55 Beijing time, which brought it 15 kilometres away from the surface of the moon. 

The Chang’e-4 first entered a lunar orbit on December 12.

The tasks of the Chang’e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon’s terrain, landform and mineral composition, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon.

China aims to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. 

It is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.

It will visit an unexplored region of the lunar surface called the South Pole-Aitken Basin (pictured), located in the southern hemisphere of the moon

It will visit an unexplored region of the lunar surface called the South Pole-Aitken Basin (pictured), located in the southern hemisphere of the moon

However, while China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the U.S. Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.

The space control centre will select a ‘proper time’ to land the probe on the far side of the moon, Xinhua reported. 

Its descent is being aided by a relay satellite, the Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge.

Retrorockets on the probe fired on 12 December to stabilise the spacecraft and slow it down.  

It took off from the Xichang satellite launch centre in Sichuan, south-west China at 6:30 GMT on December 7 atop a Long March-3B rocket.

It is expected to perform a ‘soft-landing’ and land on the moon after completing its 27 day journey through space.  

The relay satellite will fly to the Earth-Moon point in orbit around 80,000 km away from the moon's surface (pictured)

The relay satellite will fly to the Earth-Moon point in orbit around 80,000 km away from the moon’s surface (pictured)

Exploring the huge divot on the surface of the moon may shed new light on its history and geology by collecting rocks that have never been seen before. 

Researchers hope the huge depth of the crater will allow them to study the moon’s mantle, the layer underneath the surface, of the moon.

Chang’e-4 has been described as ‘hugely ambitious’ and heralded as a sign of China’s growing intentions to rival the space exploration prowess of the US, Russia and the EU.   

To facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e-4 mission, China launched a relay satellite named Queqiao on 20 May and is now stationed in operational orbit about 40,000 miles beyond the moon.

The Chinese plan involves two missions. One places a satellite in orbit around the moon to provide a means of sending information and data back to Earth (left). The other part involves a lander and rover which will work together to explore the surface of the moon (right)

The Chinese plan involves two missions. One places a satellite in orbit around the moon to provide a means of sending information and data back to Earth (left). The other part involves a lander and rover which will work together to explore the surface of the moon (right)

CHINESE SPACE EXPLORATION 

China landed its Yutu, or ‘Jade Rabbit’, rover on the moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang’e-5 probe there next year.

Change-5 is the follow up to the current mission and will return to Earth with the first samples from the moon since 1976.  

The Asian superpower is also considering a crewed lunar mission.  

On September 29, 2011, China launched Tiangong 1.

On December 14, 2013[54] China’s Chang’e 3 became the first object to soft-land on the Moon since Luna 24 in 1976

A second space lab, Tiangong 2, launched on 15 September 2016.

A larger basic permanent space station would be the third and last phase of Project 921.

The first section, designated Tiangong 3, is scheduled for launch after Tiangong 2.

The Chinese space station is scheduled to be completed in 2020.[46]

China also plans for its first uncrewed Mars exploration program could take place sometime between now and 2033, followed by a crewed phase in 2040-2060.   

Its payload will include materials necessary for experiments, including a low-frequency radio spectrometer, a panoramic camera and lunar penetrating radar, among other things

Its payload will include materials necessary for experiments, including a low-frequency radio spectrometer, a panoramic camera and lunar penetrating radar, among other things

The probe and explorer will use Queqiao to get their findings back to China. As the landing is happening on the dark side of the moon it required its own satellite to be able to send information back 

The probe and explorer will use Queqiao to get their findings back to China. As the landing is happening on the dark side of the moon it required its own satellite to be able to send information back 

This will be the primary form of communication between Earth and the spacecraft. 

The probe and explorer will use Queqiao to get their findings back to China. As the landing is happening on the dark side of the moon it required its own satellite to be able to send information back. 

China’s latest mission closely follows the touchdown of NASA’s InSight spacecraft on Mars on Monday, at a site less than 400 miles (640 kilometres) from the American rover Curiosity, the only other working robot on Mars. 

Chang'e-4 launched from the Xichang satellite launch centre in Sichuan, south-west China at 6:30 GMT on December 7 

Chang’e-4 launched from the Xichang satellite launch centre in Sichuan, south-west China at 6:30 GMT on December 7 



READ SOURCE

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.