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Chinese spacecraft is first to land on far side of moon

January 3, 2019 4:05 AM
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The far side of the moon is relatively unexplored and the ambitious mission signals China's intention to become a space power.

The lunar explorer Chang'e 4 touched down on Thursday morning Beijing time (just before 2.30am GMT), the official China Central Television said.

Soon after landing, it transmitted the first "close range" images of the moon's far side - somewhere previous spacecraft have seen but never landed on.

It "lifted the mysterious veil" and "opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration", according to the state broadcaster.

Chinese state media said at the time that the area being targeted was the Aitken Basin, an impact crater about eight miles deep in the lunar south pole region.

Ten experiments were planned - six from China and four from other countries.

Among the experiments are planting potatoes and other seeds. The rover will also test minerals and radiation.

The far side of the moon is still a relative mystery and communication is difficult because it always points away from Earth and this means signals could be blocked.

To overcome that, a satellite named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) after an ancient Chinese folk tale was blasted into the moon's orbit in May, to act as a link between the lander and Earth.

While the terrain on the near side of the moon has many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is rugged and mountainous.

The ambitious mission also signals China's intention to become a global power in space exploration.

China, which is investing billions in its military-run space programme, has previously said it hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022.

It would also like to develop a moon base through several manned missions.

Source: news.sky.com

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