China's Chang'e-4 probe soft-lands on moon's far side

Christopher Davidson
January 3, 2019

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

China's Chang'e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon Thursday, becoming the first spacecraft soft-landing on the moon's uncharted side never visible from Earth.

"Since the far side of the Moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it's an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can "listen" to the deeper reaches of the cosmos," said Tongjie Liu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center at China's National Space Administration. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon but none have landed on it.

The robotic probe, Chang'e 4, entered an elliptical path around the moon last weekend, drawing as close as 15km (9 miles) from the surface.

Among the experiments are planting potatoes and other seeds. It is also known as the dark side of the Moon.

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

Chang'e 4 was launched atop a Long March 3B carrier rocket on December 8 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest China's Sichuan province.

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.

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.

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

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