Chinese spacecraft makes 1st landing on moon's far side

09 Décembre, 2019, 12:40 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Chinese spacecraft makes 1st landing on moon's far side

A Chinese spacecraft on Thursday made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon, state media said. That side has been observed many times from lunar orbit, but never up close.

The lunar explorer Chang'e 4 touched down at 10:26 a.m., China Central Television said in a brief announcement at the top of its noon news broadcast.

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).

The mission highlights China's growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russian Federation and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement its position as a regional and global power.

"The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger", President Xi Jinping said in 2013, shortly after becoming China's leader.

He added that China has Mars, Jupiter and asteroids in its sights: "There's no doubt that our nation will go farther and farther".

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Getting to the far side poses engineering challenges, a fact that kept all 27 previous landings on the near side. In 2013, Chang'e 3 was the first spacecraft to land on the moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976. China is studying possible manned moon landings for sometime after 2025. The area where the probe has landed faces away from earth, meaning it is free from radio frequencies.

The spacecraft, which blasted off into the heavens on December 7, was in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, swinging within 15 kilometres (nine miles) of the lunar regolith. Knowing the age and chemical composition of this crash zone would help understand Earth's ancient history better, said Purdue's Melosh.

Assuming it touches down safely, Chang'e 4 will perform a series of radio astronomy experiments and test whether plants can grow in the moon's gravity. Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia contributed payloads that will measure radiation and use low-frequency radio astronomy to listen for faint signals lingering in the cosmos since the formation of the universe's first stars, among other things.

The far side of the moon was first photographed in 1959, and missions from Europe, India, Russia and America in the last two decades have already mapped it.

The far side's terrain is rugged with a multitude of impact craters.

It's thought that the basin was created by a huge collision early in the Moon's history - which means materials from lower down in the Moon's mantle that we haven't been able to get to yet could be exposed in this region. Its space program suffered a rare setback a year ago with the failed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

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