Published: Sun, January 06, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

China lunar probe sheds light on the ‘dark’ side of the moon

China lunar probe sheds light on the ‘dark’ side of the moon

China has shared images of the rover leaving its first tracks on the lunar surface.

The images were sent via the relay satellite Queqiao, created to allow radio communication between the far side of the moon and Earth without it being blocked by the near hemisphere.

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

Following the December 7, 2018 launch of the Chang'e 4 mission using a Long March-3B/G3Z booster/launch vehicle the Chinese spacecraft reached lunar orbit last weekend.

Chang'e-3, consisting of China's first moon rover Yutu and a lander, was launched in 2013.

Instruments on the lander and rover will study the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure of the area as well as perform low-frequency radio astronomical observation.

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The pioneering achievement is another demonstration of China's ambitions to be a space power. The South Pole-Aitken Basin, which measures 2,500km in diameter and is 13km deep, is also the largest, deepest and oldest impact crater on the Moon, and may yield secrets of its evolution to the Chang'e-4.

What is the far side of the moon? The far side can't be seen from Earth and is popularly called the "dark side" by some because it is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight. That's when space rocks were careening off each other and crashing into moons and planets, including Earth.

In May, a relay satellite "Queqiao", or "Magpie Bridge", named after an ancient Chinese folktale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang'e 4 and Earth. It also comes as tensions between the US and China heat up. As a result, the moon always presents the same "near" face towards Earth, no matter from what vantage on Earth the moon is observed.

The moon's far side is sometimes known as the dark side, although it is not darker than the near side in any literal sense. China was only the third country, after Russian Federation and the USA, to conduct a crewed mission. The far side of the moon is shielded from such signals, making it far easier to pick up faint fingerprints left by the Big Bang.

Nasa plans to build a manned, lunar-orbiting space station in the 2020s, while India is due... Its space program suffered a rare delay a year ago with the failed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

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