A Chinese space probe, Chang’e 4, has become the first ever spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon. The probe touched down at 2:26 am GMT on Thursday. It made its final descent from an elliptical orbit 15 kilometres above the moon’s surface. An image tweeted by CCTV showed the first shot of the far side of the moon.
What is far side of the moon?
The far side of the moon never faces earth, due to the moon’s rotation.
The mission aims to explore the Aitken basin, thought to form during a gigantic collision during an early period in the moon’s history. This area is free from radio frequencies and thus lunar rovers cannot contact ground control directly. China launched a dedicated satellite orbiting the moon earlier this year to solve this problem.
Some of the objectives include conducting the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment, observing whether plants can grow in the low-gravity environment, and exploring the availability of water and other resources at the poles.
The mission also aims to study how solar winds interact with the moon surface.
Chinese space dominance?
“China is on the road to becoming a strong space nation. And this marks one of the milestone events of building a strong space nation,”Said Wu Weiren, chief designer for the lunar mission.
According to Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the landing might motivate the Americans to step up their space efforts.
“I imagine we will see an announcement the Chinese do intend to send Taikonauts to the moon by 2030. China has been very clear in its understanding of this. They have compared the moon to the South China Sea and Taiwan, and asteroids to the East China Sea. They’re making a very clear geopolitical comparison with what’s happening with space and we need to pay attention to that.Malcolm Davis