Published: Sun, January 06, 2019
Sci-tech | By April Francis

China lands first probe on the dark side of the moon

China lands first probe on the dark side of the moon

A Chinese spacecraft on Thursday made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon in the latest achievement for the country's growing space program.

At 10.26am Beijing time (2.26am GMT), the Chang'e-4 probe touched down in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, Chinese state media said.

The relatively unexplored far side of the moon faces away from Earth and is also known as the dark side.

Chang'e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from overseas, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the far side.

Macau University of Science and Technology professor Zhu Menghua called the landing "absolutely perfect" and a "big milestone" for China's space exploration because of the technical difficulties of landing in an uncharted territory.

It was only in 1959, when the first images of the far side were beamed back by the Soviet Union's Luna 3, that intriguing differences were revealed.

Chang'e 4 spacecraft lands on far side of the Moon in world first for China
Chinese spacecraft makes first landing on far side of the moon

The probe, containing a lander and a rover, was launched on a Long March 3B rocket from Xichang in the south of the country on 8 December. (Pink Floyd released the album "The Dark Side of the Moon" in 1973.) Also likely unhelpful is an instinctual response to counter that misconception by arguing that there is no dark side of the moon.

The public was kept in suspense about the landing itself for more than an hour after it occurred, with state broadcaster CCTV announcing it at the top of the noon news.

China's state news agency, Xinhua, said the probe took a small plant called arabidopsis which is expected to produce the first flower on the moon. The far side has been observed many times from lunar orbits, but never explored on the surface.

Yu Guobin is a Chang'e 4 mission spokesman. The Chang'e-5 mission will have sample returns from the near side of the Moon. Well it turns out that day was today, and the images taken by the spacecraft during its historic landing have been relayed via satellite back to the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and shared online for all the world to see. Orbiting the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrangian point, Queqiao is in a position to relay data to and from the lander. The 2011 Wolf Amendment to NASA's appropriation bill effectively bars the US space agency from collaborating with China.

But those assurances failed to convince the Pentagon, which asserted in a report last August that China's space program was "central to modern warfare".

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