China has inaugurated a new chapter in mankind’s lunar exploration history this morning.
On Dec. 3 at 10:26AM (2:26AM GMT), the China National Space Administration (CNSA) landed Chang’e 4, a robotic probe, in the unexplored crater on the moon’s surface on the far side.
According to Sina Tech, Chang’e 4 successfully landed within the estimated landing zone situated at latitude 45.5° S and longitude 177.6° E of the moon. The probe sent back the world’s first close-up shot of the mysterious far side of the moon, opening up a new chapter in telecommunications and space exploration for mankind.
The image was relayed through the communication relay satellite, Queqiao, which was first launched to a halo orbit near the Earth-Moon L2 point in May 2018.
The landing was praised by space exploration institutions and agencies worldwide. NASA administrator Jim Brindestine called the landing “an impressive accomplishment” through a tweet. Tesla and Space-X CEO Elon Musk also commented on Xinhua News Agency’s tweet, congratulating China on the impressive feat.
Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment! pic.twitter.com/JfcBVsjRC8— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) January 3, 2019
“There’s a lot of geopolitics or astropolitics about this, it’s not just a scientific mission, this is all about China’s rise as a superpower,” says Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
After landing, Chang’e 4 will carry out low-frequency radio astronomical observations, patrol the terrain for obstacles and mineral detection, and conduct environmental studies of the moon’s surface.
The landing marks an exciting milestone for space research programs in China and opens up plans for human landings in the near future.
The name “Chang’e” (pronounced chung-uh) originated from the goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythologies. Her tale, although varies across different versions, more or less circles around Chang’e being forced to fly upwards to the heaven after drinking an elixir of immortality.
It seems that Mulan will need a new song now that we’ve seen the “mysterious dark side of the moon”.
Featured photo credit to Xinhua