For decades human beings have been launching objects into space to look at the far side of the moon, but landing there is just a feat which humankind just hasn’t accomplished until now when China’s lunar rover descended into the South Pole-Aitken Basin, the moon’s largest and oldest impact crater, to become the first spacecraft to make a successful soft landing.
China’s National Space Administration landed the spacecraft, officially named Chang’e-4, at 10:26 a.m. 3rd Jan Beijing time. It’s a huge milestone for the nation as it attempts to position itself as a leading space power.
The first image of the moon’s far side taken by Chang’e-4
A Walk in The Dark
The rover is loaded up with 6 scientific payloads to examine minerals, measure ambient radiation levels, search for subsurface water and peer deep into the lunar surface with ground-penetrating radar. Several hours after touchdown, the rover separated from the lander on the moon’s surface and began its mission.
Beyond that scientists are also curious about what Chang’e-4 will hear from its lonely outpost, the far side of the moon is the hemisphere that never faces Earth, due to the moon’s rotation. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the “Dark Side of The Moon”.
The area where the probe has landed faces away from Earth, meaning it is free from Earth radio frequencies. Because of that Chang’e-4 can listen more closely to Low-frequency emissions from space. To keep communication flowing from the spacecraft to the scientist back on Earth, China launched a dedicated satellite orbiting the moon last year in May that will be able to relay information from the rover to Earth. As the ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ shielded all the noise, that presents a very unique quiet environment for the research.
Another Image of the moon taken by Chang’e-4
What Will Be Found
The moon is rich in mineral and energy resources, the development and utilization of lunar resources are one of the driving forces for human exploration of the moon. Humanity got its first glimpse of the moon’s far side in 1959 when the Soviet Luna 3 probe photographed the region from lunar orbit. “Right away, we saw that the far side doesn’t look like the near side,” Pieters said. “Since then, we’ve been asking, Why is it so different?” Chang’e-4 is used to scientifically detect and study landforms, mineral components, shallow structures and mantle materials in the landing area. It will provide valuable first-hand information for the development and utilization of lunar resources.
By probing the moon, Chang’e-4 could also yield information about how Earth formed and evolved.
“These very large basin-forming impacts were occurring on Earth as well,” said Harrison Schmitt, a geologist-turned-astronaut who walked on the moon in 1972 as part of NASA’s Apollo 17 mission. “One of the most fundamental things we’ve learned from the moon is the early history of Earth when life was forming here on this planet. We can study the environment of the solar system when life was getting started.”
China has made history the first landing on the far side of the moon, the touch down of Chang’e-4 is the most significant successful space program so far. This is an achievement in mankind.