China spacecraft makes historic landing on the dark side of the moon


While the Moon is relatively a stone's throw away from Earth (just 384,400km away), the far side has remained unexplored.

The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power. The mission harbored some risk, because operators on Earth can not directly communicate with spacecraft on the moon's far side.

The spacecrafts are aptly named after the legend of the Chinese goddess Chang'e, who is said to have lived on the moon for a Millennia.

TRT World spoke to Associate Professor of Astrophysics at Keele University Jacco van Loon.

The moon landing comes at a time when tensions between the two powers are at an all-time high, with their economic, technological and military rivalry deepening amid China's quest for dominance.

In 1959, the Soviet probe Luna 3 was the first to snap photographs of the lunar far side, with its 18 photographs revealing one-third of the moon's surface invisible from Earth.

Chang'e-4's mission is to survey the moon's terrain, measure the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side.

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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. All science data from the far side of the moon and the Chinese lander will be relayed back to Earth via the Queqiao relay satellite.

China also plans to launch its first Mars probe by the end of this decade, according to a white paper on the country's space activities issued in 2016.

"I imagine we will see an announcement the Chinese do intend to send Taikonauts to the moon by 2030", said Davis.

"The far side of the moon is a rare, quiet place that is free from interference from radio signals from Earth", mission spokesman Yu Guobin said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. This occurs because it takes the Moon 28 days to orbit the Earth, and 28 days to spin once on its axis, meaning the same side always faces our planet.

It communicates with Earth via the Queqiiao relay satellite, which launched in May to enable contact between ground controllers and Chang'e-4.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the effort on Twitter. Several of the instruments aboard Chang'e 4 were previously used in the Yutu lander.

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. A few years ago, the country sent a craft to explore other parts of the moon.