Chinese spacecraft successfully lands on the back side of the moon

Christopher Davidson
January 2, 2019

China launched the first mission to the moon that is set to make a soft landing on the moon's far side, sometimes called the dark side. It didn't say when the landing would occur.

Understandably, there's very little information about the dark side of the moon, and China could become the first nation to shed light on it.

"The probe has entered an elliptical lunar orbit, with the perilune [closest point] at about 15 km and the apolune [maximum distance] at about 100 km", the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced Sunday.

According to a Reuters report, the country's space control centre will select a "proper time" to land the probe on the far side of the moon.

China launched the probe early December, carried by a Long March-3B rocket, which had also launched the first Hongyun satellite as part of a mega-communications project spearheaded by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. The new rover will study the lunar surface composition as well as study the terrain.

It entered luna orbit four days later, according to the South China Morning Post.

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China's ground control center has trimmed the spacecraft's orbit twice since December 12, when Chang'e-4 entered the lunar orbit, and tested the communication link between Chang'e-4 and the relay satellite Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge.

While 2018 has had its fair share of super moons as well as lunar and solar eclipses, 2019 is about to deliver in a major way.

Owing to the moon being tidally locked to the Earth, we can only see one side of the moon i.e. the near side, while the dark side remains completely obscured from view.

While its additional status as a wolf moon may sound ominous, the term is just another name for the first full moon of the year - which just happens to occur simultaneously with the other lunar events in 2019.

This would not only contribute to scientific research, but would also mark a major step in China's ambition to be at par with the United States and Russian Federation as space powers by 2030. Beijing is also planning to inaugurate its own manned space station next year. The part we can't see is hard to study because you can't beam data through the rock and back to our planet, which is why China has a relay satellite in place. Oftentimes it's setting a lofty goal we'd like to achieve over the following 12 months, but China's space agency won't need to wait almost that long to place a large feather in its 2019 cap.

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