Chinas Luna Mission
China’s burgeoning space program achieved a lunar milestone : landing a probe
on the mysterious and misnamed “dark” side of the moon.
Exploring the cosmos from that far side of the moon, which people can’t see from Earth, could eventually help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and maybe even the birth of the universe’s first stars.
Three nations — the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China — all have sent spacecraft to the side of the moon that faces Earth, but this landing is the first on the far side. That side has been observed many times from lunar orbit, but never up close.
The China National Space Administration said the 10:26 a.m. touchdown of the Chang’e 4 craft has “opened up a new chapter in human lunar exploration.”
A photo taken at 11:40 a.m. and sent back by Chang’e 4 shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the lunar explorer. Its name comes from that of a Chinese goddess who, according to legend, has lived on the moon for millennia.
One challenge of sending a probe to the moon’s far side is communicating with it from
Earth, so China launched a relay satellite in May to enable Chang’e 4 to send back
information. The mission highlights China’s growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement its position as a regional and global power.
China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, following Russia and the U.S. It has put two space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s. Its space program suffered a rare setback last year with the failed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.
“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. “And we’re gradually realizing it.”
Check the video below to understand what is the far side of the moon.