A Chinese lunar probe's successful landing on the far side of the Moon has been hailed as a milestone in the history of space exploration and the country's quest to reach the top of this field.
The probe, which includes a lander and a rover, touched down at a preselected landing area.
This picture taken Jan. 3, 2019, and received, Jan This picture taken Jan. 3, 2019, and received, Jan. 4, from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS shows a robotic lunar rover on the far side of the moon. China also says that it intends to launch missions to explore other planets as well.
The landing was "a big deal" because it used an engineering technique of the spacecraft itself choosing a safe place to touch down in treacherous terrain, something called autonomous hazard avoidance, said Purdue University lunar and planetary scientist Jay Melosh.
The United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China have all sent spacecraft to the side of the moon that faces Earth, but this landing is the first on the far side.
Months back, China launched relay satellites that help the lander and rover to remain in contact with its handlers on Earth despite not being in direct line-of-sight.
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The communist country is working on an intensive program of lunar exploration, with Chang'e 3 landing on the moon in 2013 as the first craft since a Soviet device in 1976.
The craft began its historic descent at 10:15 a.m., according to the CNSA. "Success!" posted Lin Xiaoyi, a science and space news blogger at 10:29 a.m.
There appears to have been some earlier confusion about whether the landing actually occurred, as the state-run China Daily and CGTN deleted tweets celebrating the accomplishment earlier this evening.
The United States is the only country to have landed humans on the moon, and Trump said in 2017 he wanted to return astronauts to the lunar surface to build a foundation for an eventual Mars mission. This latest Chang'e-4 mission, writes Xinhua, intends to "provide firsthand data and clues for the evolution of the moon, earth and solar system". According to the state news source Xinhua, the Chang'e-4 successfully landed on the Von Karman crater. "They think that the lunar surface at the landing site could be made up of material that originated from the deeper lunar mantle, but which was thrust upwards by the most recent major impact, billions of years ago", he said. The process was recorded by the camera on the lander and the images were sent back to the Earth via the relay satellite "Queqiao", the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.
"The Chinese lunar space programme is hugely ambitious".
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