Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - China lands probe on far side of Moon




China lands probe on far side of Moon

China lands probe on far side of Moon

A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the Moon on Thursday, in a global first that boosts Beijing’s ambitions to become a space superpower.

The Chang’e-4 probe touched down and sent a photo of the so-called “dark side” of the moon to the Queqiao satellite, which will relay communications to controllers on Earth, China’s national space agency said on its website.

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with the hope of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.

The Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission – named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology – launched in December from the southwestern Xichang launch centre.

It is the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover mission in 2013.

Unlike the near side of the moon that offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged.

The moon is “tidally locked” to Earth in its rotation so the same side is always facing Earth.

Chang’e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from abroad, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies – aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the far side.

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

Extreme challenges

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the moon’s mysterious and heavily cratered “dark side”.

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface there, and it is no easy technological feat – China had been preparing for years.

A major challenge for such a mission was communicating with the robotic lander as there is no direct “line of sight” for signals to the far side of the moon.

As a solution, China in May blasted the Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) satellite into the moon’s orbit, positioning it so that it can relay data and commands between the lander and Earth.

In another extreme hurdle, during the lunar night – which lasts 14 Earth days – temperatures drop to as low as minus 173 degrees Celsius.

During the lunar day, also lasting 14 Earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127C.

The rover’s instruments have to withstand those fluctuations, and it has to generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night.

Adding to the difficulties, Chang’e-4 was sent to the Aitken Basin in the lunar south pole region – known for its craggy and complex terrain – state media has said.

Yutu also conquered those challenges and, after initial setbacks, ultimately surveyed the moon’s surface for 31 months. Its success provided a major boost to China’s space programme.

Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang’e-5, later this year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those Nasa and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Hun Sen: Lakes filled in for national developments

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced continued operations to fill some lakes in Phnom Penh to create land for developments, though he is against the unrelated practice of damming rivers or blocking waterways. Speaking at the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport

  • Koh Preus upgrades 70% complete

    Initial construction of a nearly $30 million tourism infrastructure project on Preah Sihanouk province’s Koh Preus Island is “about 70 per cent complete”, according to an official with the developer. Heng Thou, construction site manager of Angela Real Estate Co Ltd (ARE), told The Post that

  • Local media loses a giant, and The Post a great friend

    Cheang Sokha, a gifted and streetwise reporter who rose to the highest ranks of Cambodian media and was beloved for his sharp intelligence, world-class humour and endless generosity, died on Friday in his hometown of Phnom Penh. He was 42. His wife, Sok Sophorn, said he

  • Cambodia, India agree to start direct flights, tourism exchanges

    Cambodia and India have agreed to start direct flight connections and promote closer tourism exchanges and cooperation in all areas after the Covid-19 saga comes to a close. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and newly-minted Indian