SBS Radio App

Download the FREE SBS Radio App for a better listening experience

Advertisement
  • A mock-up of China's Chang'e-4 lander that made a historic landing on the moon (AAP)
The rover is the first to land on the dark side of the moon.
English
By
Riley Morgan

4 Jan 2019 - 10:36 AM  UPDATED 4 Jan 2019 - 5:40 PM

China's Chang'e-4 lunar rover landed on the far side of the moon Thursday, the first probe to do so, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The probe landed at 10:26am Beijing time and relayed a photo of the "dark side" of the moon to the Queqiao satellite, which will relay communications between controllers on Earth and the far side of the moon.

While spacecraft have taken photos of the unexplored side of the moon's surface, this is the first time a rover has touched down on the Von Karman crater.

The move marks a global first that boosts Beijing's ambitions to become a space superpower, state media said.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe mission - named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology - launched on a Long March 3B rocket from the southwestern Xichang launch centre at 2.23 am (1823 GMT), according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The blast-off marked the start of a long journey to the far side of the moon for the Chang'e-4 mission.

"Chang'e-4 is humanity's first probe to land on and explore the far side of the moon," said the mission's chief commander He Rongwei of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the main state-owned space contractor. 

"This mission is also the most meaningful deep space exploration research project in the world in 2018."

Unlike the near side of the moon that is "tidally locked" and always faces the earth - complete with many flat areas to touch down on - the far side is mountainous and rugged.

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the heavily cratered surface, uncloaking some of the mystery of the moon's "dark side".

No lander or rover has ever touched the surface there, positioning China as the first nation to explore the area.

"China over the past 10 or 20 years has been systematically ticking off the various firsts that America and the Soviet Union did in the 1960s and 1970s in space exploration," Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said.

"This is one of the first times they've done something that no one else has done before."

The Chang'e-4 probe is carrying six experiments from China and four from abroad, and includes low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the far side.

The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration said according to state news agency Xinhua.