China lands spacecraft on ‘dark’ side of moon in world first

A simulated landing process of Chang'e-4 lunar probe is seen through the monitor at Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

The 1.2-ton lander is made from backup components of the Chang'e-3 mission, which China's space program landed on Mare Imbrium on the near side of the Moon five years ago.

China has announced that its spacecraft has made the first ever landing on the far side of the Moon.

Adding to the complexity of the mission, radio waves transmitted from the "dark" or far side of the moon do not reach earth. Instead of finding a collection of record players spinning Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon backwards, the probe sent back a photograph of a desolate rocky surface pitted with a single crater, said to be the oldest and deepest on the moon. Its Chang'e-3 craft, which landed on the moon's Earth-facing side in 2013, was the first moon landing since the former Soviet Union touched down with its Luna 24 in 1976.

The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral composition, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon, the China National Space Administration has said. The Chinese Chang'e 4 probe set down in Von Kármán crater on January 3rd (Beijing time), marking another important milestone in the Chinese mission to explore the lunar surface.

The so-called Chang'e 4 lunar exploration mission consists of four components: the Queqiao satellite to enable communication, two microsatellites for sky observation (only one is functioning), the lander which touched down yesterday, and the rover it contains.

However, this only refers to the side of the moon being unseen on earth - it still receives sunlight.

The landing was also greeted by Nasa administrator Jim Brindestine.

China's latest moon shot will pave the way for the country to deliver samples of lunar rock and dust to Earth.

As China's space agency CNSA explains in a new post on its website, the Chang'e 4 lander arrived on schedule on the Moon's surface and quickly deployed the Yutu rover. This occurs because it takes the Moon 28 days to orbit the Earth, and 28 days to spin once on its axis, meaning the same side always faces our planet. As Chang'e-4 will never be in a direct line of sight with Earth, that satellite relay is going to be essential. These are the first images captured from the surface.In addition, Purdue University planetary scientist Briony Horgan's name was misspelled as Briorny. The United States first landed a man on the moon in 1969. Chang'e 4 is the fourth lunar probe launched by China since the country's lunar programme was opened in 2004.

A spokesperson from the Australian Space Agency said the agency did not have a comment on the mission except to offer China its congratulations on the success of the landing and to "wish them all the best".

  • Joe Gonzales