China lands probe on far side of Moon in a space milestone

China's'Yutu 2 Chang'e-4 rover is now rolling on the far side of the Moon                
          by                     Andrew Jones

China's burgeoning space program achieved a first on Thursday: a landing on the so-called dark side of the moon that brings the country closer to its goal of becoming a space power. China's space agency was quick to post new photos snapped from the lander, declaring the touchdown and deployment of its lunar rover a success. "This giant leap is a decisive move for our exploration of space and the conquering of the universe". China's lunar rover, Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, left the first ever "footprint" from a human spacecraft on the far side of the moon late at night on Thursday, after it separated from the lander smoothly.

Launched from Xichang in southwest China's Sichuan province on Dec 8, the spacecraft is on a mission to seek out what lies on this mysterious "dark side" of the Moon, which can not be seen from the Earth as the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth and rotates at the same rate that it orbits the Earth. The probe, comprising a lander and a rover, landed at the preselected landing area on the far side of the moon at 10:26 a.m. Beijing Time (0226 GMT), the China National Space Administration announced.

Getting to the far side poses engineering challenges, a fact that kept all 27 previous landings on the near side.

Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said: "There's a lot of geopolitics or astropolitics about this, it's not just a scientific mission, this is all about China's rise as a superpower". It can climb a 20-degree hill or an obstacle up to 20 centimeters (8 inches) tall. Its maximum speed is 200 meters per hour.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm for the space program in China".

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. By that time, speculation already had begun spreading on social media in China and overseas.

Close-up view of the wheel of the Chang'e-4 rover 'Yutu 2
China lands probe on far side of Moon in a space milestone

While in popular culture the far side of the Moon is often called the "dark side", the far side is not dark in the sense that it does get exposed to sunlight.

He added that China has Mars, Jupiter and asteroids in its sights: "There's no doubt that our nation will go farther and farther".

It's a milestone for China's lunar exploration project.

He recalled mentioning the idea of such a technique for an unfunded NASA lunar mission about eight years ago, only to be told it wasn't doable at the time.

Chang'e 3: First unmanned Moon landing of the Chang'e effort.

Chang'e-4 is set to carry out a number of experiments while on the moon, including planting potatoes and other seeds, low-frequency radio astronomy tests, and looking for water and other resources at the poles.

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