China's Lunar Probe Lands Safely on Far Side of Moon

It's another momentous day in the history of space exploration: the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has reportedly just landed its Chang'e-4 rover on the far side of the Moon, marking the first time we've been able to explore this hidden side of the lunar surface.

The system will involve Chang'e 4 communicating with China's Queqiao satellite, the only way it will be possible for communications to make their way from the moon's far side back to the team on Earth. Because this region of the Moon is obstructed from view for scientists on Earth, the complicated mission required a satellite to first be deployed beyond the Moon so it can relay the signals.

"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", state-run Xinhua news agency reported. According to Andrew Jones, a journalist reporting on the Chinese space program, Chang'e 4's descent required "laser ranging and optical cameras for navigation, velocity, and coarse hazard avoidance".

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 moons' far side. The moon's dark side remains largely unexplored because its position shields it from radio frequencies, preventing direct contact with the Earth.

Another instrument on board the spacecraft known as the Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN), will measure how solar wind - a flow of charged particles from the sun - interacts with the lunar surface.

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The news cheered people on the streets of Beijing on Friday, many of whom said it showed that China can now achieve or even surpass what the United States has done.

The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said. In 2013, Chang'e 3, the predecessor craft to the current mission, made the first moon landing since the then-Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976. Knowing the age and chemical composition of this crash zone would help understand Earth's ancient history better, said Purdue's Melosh.

The far side of the moon, because it faces away from Earth, isn't polluted by radio "noise" from our planet.

"It's a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation", Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project, told state broadcaster CCTV, in a twist of US astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous comment when he became the first human to walk on the moon in 1969.

"Building a space power is a dream that we persistently pursue", said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the China Lunar Exploration Project, speaking with CCTV at the Beijing Aerospace Flight and Control Center.

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