January 19, 2019

Chinese rover 'Jade Rabbit' drives on far side of the moon

06 January 2019, 03:41 | Edward Lowe

An artist's impression of the moon lander for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe Credit Barcroft Images

An artist's impression of the moon lander for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe

The far side can't be seen from Earth and is popularly called the "dark side" by some because it is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.

Other countries have sent spacecraft to the side of the moon that faces Earth.

A Chinese spacecraft has become the first to land on the far side of the moon, according to state media.

The Jade Rabbit 2 rover drove off a ramp and onto the moon at 2:22pm GMT on Thursday, about 12 hours after the Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down.

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The robotic rover-named after Chinese Moon goddess Chang'e-boasts a panoramic camera, ground-penetrating radar, imaging spectrometers, and an energetic neutral atom analyzer (to study how solar wind interacts with the lunar surface).

This weekend, the spacecraft entered an elliptical path around the moon in preparation for landing, bringing it as close as 15 km away from the lunar surface. (Pink Floyd released the album "The Dark Side of the Moon" in 1973.) Also likely unhelpful is an instinctual response to counter that misconception by arguing that there is no dark side of the moon.

TRT World spoke to Associate Professor of Astrophysics at Keele University Jacco van Loon.

The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power.

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The probe, which has a lander and a rover, will conduct surveys on terrain, mineral composition and other environmental qualities in collaboration with countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

The mission left Xichang Satellite Launch Center on December 8 and was reported to have reached lunar orbit four days later.

Unlike the parabolic curve of Chang'e-3's descent trajectory, Chang'e-4 made an nearly vertical landing, said Wu. With the Moon tidally locked to the Earth and rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, the far side or the "dark side" is never visible from Earth. The first man-made object to hit the far side was NASA's Ranger 4 craft in 1964, which crashed after a system failure. China's increasing interest in space exploration also includes plans to operate a third space station, send astronauts to the moon, and get a probe out to Mars, The New York Times reports. Its space program suffered a rare setback previous year with the failed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

"It's an important milestone for China's space exploration", Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar exploration program, noted. "And we're gradually realizing it".

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