China's upgraded lunar rover drives on moon's far side — China Focus

China far side moon

The Chang'e 4 lander proudly displays the Chinese flag

The moon's far side has a much thicker, older crust and is pockmarked by more and deeper craters than the near side, where large dark plains called maria, formed by ancient lava flows, have erased much of the cratering.

Thursday's historic spacecraft landing reinforces Beijing's space ambition which continues to raise questions.

Nearly twelve hours later the China Lunar Exploration Project (CLEP) announced that the rover had descended from atop the lander at 14:22 UTC.

Engineer Wu Weiren confirmed that the hidden face of the moon is mysterious and distant.

Space development is a priority for Beijing's "Made in China 2025" initiative to develop cutting-edge industries.

It's not all that often that China breaks entirely new ground when it comes to space science but that's exactly what the country did earlier today by successfully landing its Chang'e 4 spacecraft on the Moon's surface.

The probe also sent back a photo of the moon's far side via the Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) relay satellite, which was launched last May to help the space agency maintain communication with the rover.

The 135-kg new rover is 2 kg lighter than its predecessor and is the lightest rover ever sent to the moon, said Jia Yang, deputy chief designer of the Chang'e-4 probe, from the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).

Measuring their age by laboratory techniques on Earth will provide an important piece for the jigsaw of lunar chronology, which is missing because these have never been sampled. Each time their spacecraft slipped beyond the limb of the Moon, they were plunged into radio silence from Earth. The other side, most of which can not be seen from the Earth, is called the far side or dark side because most of it is uncharted.

However, this only refers to the side of the moon being unseen on earth - it still receives sunlight. This is due to the Moon being "tidally-locked" to Earth, meaning that, because of its gravitational attraction to Earth, the time it takes for the Moon to rotate once on its axis exactly matches the time it takes to make one orbit around the Earth.

"We are confident our new rover can run farther on the moon and obtain more scientific results", Sun said.

The probe blasted off almost a month ago on December 8, from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

China completed its first lunar "soft landing" in 2013, but its "Jade Rabbit" rover began malfunctioning after several weeks.

The mission of Chang-e 4, which is carrying a rover, includes carrying out low-frequency radio astronomical observations and probing the structure and mineral composition of the terrain.

We're looking forward to the treasure trove of data Chang'e-4 sends back, but the CNSA aren't stopping here - Chang'e-5 is scheduled to launch by 2020, with the aim of landing on the Moon and then returning to Earth.

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