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08 January 2019, 04:27 | Edward Lowe
DARK SIDE Chang’e-4
China probe "lands on dark side of the MOON" in space exploration BREAKTHROUGH The Chinese robotic probe Chang'e 4 has landed on the dark side of the moon, becoming the first manmade craft to alight on the unexplored surface, according to reports from Chinese state media. Ten years later, Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on this side of the moon. The spacecraft, which launched in early December, touched down late Wednesday night.
The relay satellite, named Queqiao, meaning Magpie Bridge, after a Chinese legend, was launched on May 21, 2018, and became the first communication satellite operating in the halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the earth-moon system, almost 500,000 km from the earth. Though there have been several missions to the Moon in past decades after the landing by Neil Armstrong, a lot of them have by fly past and just touch and go flights.
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Because the moon is tidally locked with Earth, the same half always faces Earth.
The Moon's mysterious and misnamed "dark" side may soon have all its secrets unlocked. The far side of the moon is heavily cratered and hosts one of the largest craters in the solar system, the South Pole-Aitken basin. In addition, the spacecraft sent back images taken with a topographical camera. In May, China launched Quaqiao, a satellite relay between Chang'e-4 and Earth. The satellite is positioned in a stable orbit around Earth that keeps both mission control and Chang'e-4 within its sight lines.
The rover's radar and panoramic camera have been activated and are working normally, it said. This Thursday, 3 January, the Chinese Space Agency announced the successful landing of its probe Chang'e-4. According to astronomer Ye Quanzhi, at Caltech, this is the first time that China has attempted something that none other space powers have tried in the past.
"There's a lot of geopolitics or astropolitics about this - it's not just a scientific mission - this is all about China's rise as a superpower", Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defense strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told the Guardian.
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