Lunar rover leaves first 'footprint' on Moon's far side

09 January, 2019, 12:09 | Author: Emmett Howard
  • Yutu-2 China's lunar rover leaves wheel marks after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon. — AP

The Chinese National Space Administration's Chang'e 4 vehicle touched down on the moon's far side Thursday morning, AP reports.

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space program.

Three nations - the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China - have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, but the latest landing is the first on the far side.

China's space programme lags America's, but has made great strides in the past 15 years, including manned flights and a space laboratory that is seen as a precursor to plans for a space station.

In Chinese folklore, Yutu is the white pet rabbit of Chang'e, the moon goddess who lent her name to the Chinese lunar mission. The far side has been observed many times from lunar orbits, but never explored on the surface.

These allegations have come up after recent analysis of pictures taken from the Chinese Chang'e-4 probe allegedly found no traces of the American Moon landings existing on the Moon.

The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

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Since the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces the Earth.

In Beijing, however, the successful departure of the rover was heralded as a giant leap for China's space programme, 50 years after Neil Armstrong left his footprints on the moon.

In May, a relay satellite "Queqiao", or "Magpie Bridge", named after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang'e 4 and Earth.

During the lunar day, also lasting 14 Earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127 C (261 F). With the help of ground-penetrating radar, it will allow scientists to study the moon's mysterious "dark side", how its surface interacts with solar wind, and perhaps the process behind the formation of lunar water.

Chang'e-4 landed in Von Karman crater, a 112-mile (180 km) wide crater located within an even larger impact crater known as the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The landing highlights China's growing ambitions as a space power.

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