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In a first, China lands space probe on dark side of moon hidden from earth

A Chinese space probe landed on the far side of the moon on Thursday, making it the first spacecraft to touch down on the part of moon, which is never visible from earth.

world Updated: Jan 03, 2019 18:16 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
This handout picture taken by the Chang'e-4 probe and released to AFP by China National Space Administration on January 3, 2019 shows an image of the
This handout picture taken by the Chang'e-4 probe and released to AFP by China National Space Administration on January 3, 2019 shows an image of the "dark side" of the moon. (AFP)
         

A Chinese space probe landed on the far side of the moon on Thursday, making it the first spacecraft to touch down on the part of moon, which is never visible from earth.

State media hailed the soft-landing by the Chang’e-4 probe on the dark side of the moon as an important milestone in China’s rapidly developing space programme and contribution to the world’s exploration of the moon.

Previous space expeditions had seen the “dark” side of the moon but none had landed there.

The landing “lifted the mysterious veil” from the far side of the moon and “opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration”, China’s national broadcaster said.

“The Chang’e-4 probe, carrying eight payloads including two developed through international cooperation, will conduct low-frequency radio astronomical observation, survey the terrain and landforms, detect the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure and measure the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon, according to China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Chinese state television said the Chang’e-4 lunar probe, launched in December, made the “soft landing” at 0226 GMT and transmitted the first-ever “close range” image of the dark side of the moon.

“The probe, comprised of a lander and a rover, touched down at the preselected landing area at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude on the far side of the moon at 10:26 am (Beijing Time),” the CNSA announced.

“With the communication assistance of the relay satellite Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), the probe sent back the first-ever close-up photograph of the moon’s far side, opening a new chapter in lunar exploration,” official news agency, Xinhua said in a report.

“At 100 metres up, the probe hovered to identify obstacles and measured slopes on the surface. After avoiding the obstacles, it selected a relatively flat area and descended vertically and slowly,” the report said.

“Then the probe landed in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

During the descending process, a camera on the probe took photos of the landing area.

“It’s an important milestone for China’s space exploration,” said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program.

“It is a perfect display of human intelligence,” said Jia Yang, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-4 probe, from the China Academy of Space Technology.

Elsewhere, stocks in China’s A-share market related to aerospace and military sectors soared Thursday morning in “…positive territory thanks to investors’ confidence in the sectors, encouraged by the successful landing on the moon of China’s Chang-e’4 lunar probe and the expected industrial growth in the new year”.

“The aerospace and military sectors were cheered by good news that China’s Chang’e-4 probe successfully landed on the dark side of the moon, driving related shares up,” Wu Hao, a Shenzhen-based industry analyst told Global Times.

First Published: Jan 03, 2019 18:15 IST