Autobots, roll out! China lands on the dark side of the moon

During a solar eclipse the moon blocks the sun leaving only its outer edges visible from earth

During a solar eclipse the moon blocks the sun leaving only its outer edges visible from earth

"The other side sees the sun sometimes".

It's taken careful planning, including positioning a satellite in a particular orbit that allows it to relay signals to the far side that would otherwise be blocked by the bulk of the moon. He told the Associated Press, "On the whole, China's space technology still lags behind the West, but with the landing on the far side of the moon, we have raced to the front".

The move is seen as a major boost to Beijing's quest to become a space superpower. Its name comes from that of a Chinese goddess who, according to legend, has lived on the moon for millennia.

A Chinese spacecraft has become to first to land on the dark side of the moon, according to state media. The lack of a direct line of sight with our planet means it's hard to receive radio signals sent from robots on the far side, which is why nobody's ever been able to land there before. Since the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces Earth.

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The control center in Beijing will decide when to let the rover separate from the lander, state news agency Xinhua said.

We're looking forward to the treasure trove of data Chang'e-4 sends back, but the CNSA aren't stopping here - Chang'e-5 is scheduled to launch by 2020, with the aim of landing on the Moon and then returning to Earth.

However, in terms of science and engineering, it's a remarkable achievement which should be praised, as NASA administrator Jim Brindestine acknowledged.

Getting to the far side poses engineering challenges, a fact that kept all 27 previous landings on the near side. Its mission will be to obtain geological samples on the near side of the moon and send these back to Earth.

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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.

Chang'e-4's mission is to survey the moon's terrain, measure the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side. Chang'e-4's observations could give clues to the processes behind the differences.

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. China's lunar rover, Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, left the first ever "footprint" from a human spacecraft on the far side of the moon late at night on Thursday, after it separated from the lander smoothly.

The six-wheeled rover landed in the southern section of the Von Kármán crater, near the moon's south pole, Chinese media reported. It worked there for around 1,000 days.

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