In a first for any country, China has successfully landed a rover on the far side of the lunar surface. The state media announced on Thursday that its space agency has successfully landed a rover on the far side of the moon. This is a huge milestone as the country aims to become a leader in the space programs carried out around the world. The China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) landed the Chang’e 4 lunar probe in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which is an impact crater, at 10:26AM Beijing time on Thursday, according to a report by China Central Television (CCTV).
The report notes that the rover made its final descent from a landing orbit 15 kilometers above the moon’s surface. The rover, after landing, transmitted back the world’s first close range image of the far side of the moon. The state media did not share any other details of this historic landing. The announcement came in a controversial moment after the state media outlets China Daily and China Global Television Network (CGTN) deleted posts on social media where they claimed the mission a success.
The posts deleted by Chinese media raises a speculation as to whether the probe really landed on the far side of the lunar surface. Landing a probe on the far side of the moon is an achievement since it is the hemisphere that never faces earth due to its rotation. It is even referred to as the “dark side of the moon” and it received as much sunlight as the side facing the earth.
The state media reported that the Chang’e lunar mission lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on December 8 and entered the moon’s orbit four days later. Once safely on the moon, the lander will conduct the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment. Its other to-do include observing whether plants will grow in the low-gravity environment and then explore whether there is water or other resources at the poles.
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“Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it’s an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can ‘listen’ to the deeper reaches of the cosmos,” Tongjie Liu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center for the China National Space Administration, was quoted by CNN.
The Chang’e 4 rover is 1.5 meters long and about 1 meter wide and tall. It has two foldable solar panels and six wheels and it is free from interference from radio frequencies. Another function of the mission is to study the interaction between solar winds and the moon surface using a new rover. This landing shows China‘s intent to become a leader in space technologies as other agencies aim to send humans to Martian space and establish a habitat there.