China's Spacecraft Makes the First-Ever Landing on Moon's Dark Side

Pat Wise
January 4, 2019

The pioneering achievement is another demonstration of China's ambitions to be a space power. The Communist party-owned Global Times also said the probe had "successfully made the first-ever soft landing" on the far side of the moon.

That's because the Chinese lunar probe, Chang'e-4, became the first manmade spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon.

Previous moon missions have mostly focused on the Earth-facing side of the moon. Indeed, this communication complication is a big reason why the far-side surface had not previously welcomed any functioning spacecraft (though a few probes have crashed there over the years).

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

China aims to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the moon's mysterious and heavily cratered far side.

The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on December 8 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province.

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China's next lunar mission, with the Chang'e-5, is expected to launch next year and bring back lunar samples for the first time since 1976.

"I imagine we will see an announcement the Chinese do intend to send Taikonauts to the moon by 2030", said Davis. "With the successful landing and taking pictures by both the lander and rover soon, I am looking forward to see the real face of the far side!"

Jim Bridenstine, the administrator at the U.S. National Aeronautics & Space Administration, congratulated China on the accomplishment in a Twitter post, as did billionaire Elon Musk.

"It's a very good start", said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar exploration program, in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV. It began a gradual descent to the lunar surface in successively lower orbits around the moon in preparation for the controlled landing Wednesday. The probe entered an elliptical path around the moon last weekend, drawing up to 15-kilometre close from the surface. "Although Chang'e 4's mission is largely scientific, it is also a key bit of preparation for sending Chinese astronauts to the lunar surface", wrote Palca.

With no direct way to communicate with the spacecraft from the moon, China put a relay satellite in orbit around the moon in May.

Chang'e 4, a combined lander and rover, will make astronomical observations and probe the composition of the soil.

Chinese space officials have discussed sending crewed missions to the moon in the 2020s or 2030s, and potentially building an outpost near the lunar south pole.

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