Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

China's moon rover prepares for a rough ride on the dark side

China's moon rover prepares for a rough ride on the dark side

The Chinese spacecraft Chang'e-4 landed successfully on the far side of the Moon, on January 3 and it has just released its first panoramic image of the never-before-explored lunar landscape.

Showing the rover moving away from its lander, officials with the China National Space Administration said they marked a "total success" for the mission. The photos reveal a seemingly endless horizon of grey, rocky terrain.

The rover, which had been put in "standby" mode to protect it from the Sun's heat, was then switched on and, along with the Chang'e-4 probe, took pictures of the landing site and its surroundings.

Named after Chinese moon goddess "Chang'e", China's lunar exploration program, which began in 2004, includes orbiting and landing on the moon and bringing samples back to Earth.

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They show the Chang'e-4 probe and its cargo - a Jade Rabbit 2 rover - approaching, adjusting its trajectory and speed before finally landing on the moon on January 3.

Transmitted from a relay satellite to a control centre in Beijing, the pictures were first aired by state broadcaster CCTV.

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"From the panorama, we can see the probe is surrounded by lots of small craters, which was really thrilling", Li was quoted as saying.

The craters close to the rover - including one that was 20 meters wide (65 feet) with a depth of about four meters (13 feet) - will pose great challenges when planning its route, Li said.

The Moon's far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed. The deepest region on the Moon, where there is an altitude of minus 9,100 meters, is about 700 kilometers to the south of the probe.

"The information from the depths of the moon will be one of our focuses in the exploration", said Li.

The CNSA also released a video of the landing process of the Chang'e-4, which was produced by processing more than 4,700 pictures taken by a camera on the probe.

China's lunar rover got back to work on the far side of the moon Thursday after waking from a five-day hibernation, its official social media page announced.

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