Asharq Al-awsat English https://aawsat.com/english Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper http://feedly.com/icon.svg

China Begins 1st Surface Exploration of Moon's Far Side

China Begins 1st Surface Exploration of Moon's Far Side

Friday, 4 January, 2019 - 11:45
A penumbral eclipse of the moon is seen in the night sky in Manila November 28, 2012. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/Files
Asharq Al-Awsat
Jade Rabbit 2, a Chinese space rover, explored the lunar terrain on Friday in the world's first mission on the surface of the far side of the moon, a day after a spacecraft made the first-ever soft landing there.

The rover drove off a ramp the previous night and onto the soft, snow-like surface on the moon's far side. A photo posted online by China's space agency showed tracks left by the rover as it headed away from the spacecraft.

"It's a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation," Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project, told state broadcaster CCTV, in a twist of US astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous comment when he became the first human to walk on the moon in 1969. "This giant leap is a decisive move for our exploration of space and the conquering of the universe."

Previous moon landings, including America's six manned missions from 1969 to 1972, have been on the near side of the moon, which faces Earth. The far side has been observed many times from lunar orbits, but never explored on the surface.

China's space community is taking pride in the successful landing, which posed technical challenges because the moon blocks direct communication between the spacecraft and its controllers on Earth. China has been trying to catch up with the United States and other nations in space exploration.

"The landing on the far side shows China's technology is powerful," said He Qisong, a space expert at the East China University of Science and Law in Shanghai.

While China's space program still lags America's, He said "China has already positioned itself at least as good as Russia and the European Union."

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe, launched in December, made the "soft landing" at 0226 GMT Thursday.

The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral makeup, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side.

Editor Picks

Multimedia