Chinese spacecraft makes first-ever landing on far side of moon

The landing has lifted the ‘mysterious veil’ of the dark side of the moon opening a ‘new chapter’

As China's Chang'e-4 completed its lunar journey by touching down on the far side of the moon, a series of animations have detailed the stages of the probes' mission from launch to landing. Video: CCTV

 

A Chinese spacecraft has made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon, state media said.

The lunar explorer Chang’e 4 touched down at 10.26am local time (2.26 GMT), China Central Television said in a brief announcement at the top of its noon news broadcast.

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.

The landing “lifted the mysterious veil” from the far side of the moon and “opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration”, the broadcaster said. The probe, which includes a lander and a rover, touched down at a preselected landing area, the official Xinhua news agency said, after it had entered the moon’s orbit in mid-December.

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

The first image of the moon’s far side taken by China’s Chang’e-4 probe. Photograph: China National Space Administration/Xinhua News Agency via AP
The first image of the moon’s far side taken by China’s Chang’e-4 probe. Photograph: China National Space Administration/Xinhua News Agency via AP

In 2013, Chang’e 3 was the first spacecraft to land on the moon since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976.

The mission of Chang’e 4, which is carrying a rover, includes carrying out low-frequency radio astronomical observations and probing the structure and mineral composition of the terrain.

The Long March 3B rocket carrying Chang’e 4 blasted off on December 8th from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southern China.

In May, a relay satellite “Queqiao,” or “Magpie Bridge”, named after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang’e 4 and Earth.

China plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples — the first time that will have been done since 1976.

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, the China National Space Administration has said.

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.

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

Apart from its civilian ambitions, Beijing has tested anti-satellite missiles and the US Congress has banned NASA from bilateral cooperation with its Chinese counterpart due to security concerns.

The United States is so far the only country to have landed humans on the moon.

US president Donald Trump said in 2017 he wants to return astronauts to the lunar surface and establish a foundation there for an eventual mission to Mars. China said in 2017 it was making preparations to send a person to the moon. In 2003, it became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States, and in 2013 completed its first lunar “soft landing”. –AP and Reuters