Even the ‘dark’ moon has a bright side

China’s space programme has received a tremendous boost after it managed to land a spacecraft on the dark side of the moon for the first time ever.

China has managed to land its lunar explorer Chang’e 4 on the far side of the moon at 10:26 am today. This is the first time any spacecraft has made such a landing, highlighting the giant strides being made by the Chinese space programme.

The Chang’e 4 sent a photograph of the dark side of the moon to the Queqiao satellite, as announced by the official China Central Television.

Since the moon is tidally locked to the earth and rotates at the same rate as it orbits our planet, the dark side is never visible from the earth. Spacecraft have seen the dark side, but never landed on it. The brighter side has flat areas for landing, but the dark side is generally rugged and mountainous. The Soviet Union was the first to take pictures of the dark side in 1959.

The broadcasted hailed the achievement, saying that it had “lifted the mysterious veil” from the far side of the moon, and “opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration”.

The Chang’e-4 probe was launched earlier this month, carried by a Long March-3B rocket. It also incorporates a lander and a rover to explore the surface of the moon. The probe will conduct astronomical observations, survey the terrain of the moon, study land form and mineral composition and also analyse the environment on the far side through measurement of neuron radiation and neutral atoms.

Mission spokesman Yu Guobin stated to Xinhua, “The far side of the moon is a rare quiet place that is free from interference of radio signals from Earth.” He further added that the probe can “fill the gap of low-frequency observation in radio astronomy and will provide important information for studying the origin of stars and nebula evolution.”

China has a grand vision to become a major space power in the league of Russia and US by 2030. It also plans to construct its own manned space station by 2020. The launch of the s Chang’e 5 probe to the moon is also planned for next year. It is expected to return to the earth with samples for the first time since 1976.

So far, the US is the only country to have taken human beings to the moon. Donald Trump has announced plans to take astronauts to the moon once more and set up a foundation for a mission to Mars.

China swears by the peaceful intentions of its space mission, but the US has accused it of taking actions to prevent other countries from leveraging space-based assets at the time of a crisis. The country has also tested anti-satellite missiles, after which the US Congress barred space collaboration between the two countries.


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