Rover ex­plores far side of the moon

Saturday Star - - METRO -

BEI­JING: A Chi­nese space rover ex­plored the lu­nar ter­rain yes­ter­day in the world’s first mis­sion on the sur­face of the far side of the moon.

Jade Rab­bit 2 drove off a ramp the pre­vi­ous night and on to the soft, snow-like sur­face af­ter a Chi­nese space­craft made the first-ever soft land­ing on the moon’s far side. A photo posted on­line by China’s space agency showed tracks left by the rover as it headed away from the space­craft.

“It’s a small step for the rover, but one gi­ant leap for the Chi­nese na­tion,” Wu Weiren, the chief de­signer of the Lu­nar Ex­plo­ration Project, told state broad­caster CCTV, in a twist of US as­tro­naut Neil Arm­strong’s fa­mous com­ment when he be­came the first hu­man to walk on the moon in 1969.

Pre­vi­ous moon land­ings, in­clud­ing the US’S six manned mis­sions from 1969 to 1972, have been on the near side of the moon, which faces Earth. The far side has been ob­served many times from lu­nar or­bits, but never ex­plored on the sur­face.

China’s space com­mu­nity is tak­ing pride in the suc­cess­ful land­ing, which posed tech­ni­cal chal­lenges be­cause the moon blocks di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the space­craft and its con­trollers on Earth. China has been try­ing to catch up to the US and other na­tions in space ex­plo­ration.

While China’s space pro­gramme still lags be­hind Amer­ica’s, He Qisong, a space ex­pert at the East China Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Law in Shang­hai, said: “China has al­ready po­si­tioned it­self as at least as good as Rus­sia and the EU.”

The news cheered peo­ple on Bei­jing’s streets yes­ter­day, many of whom said it showed that China could now achieve or even sur­pass what the US had done.

“The sur­face (of the far side of the moon) is soft and it is sim­i­lar to that when you are walk­ing on snow,” rover de­signer Shen Zhen­rong of the China Aero­space Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Cor­po­ra­tion told CCTV.

Ex­plor­ing the cos­mos from the far side of the moon could even­tu­ally help sci­en­tists learn more about the early days of the so­lar sys­tem and even the birth of the uni­verse’s first stars. The far side is pop­u­larly called the “dark side” be­cause it can’t be seen from Earth and is rel­a­tively un­known, not be­cause it lacks sun­light. | AP

A VIEW from the lu­nar rover Jade Rab­bit 2 on the far side of the moon, taken by China’s Chang’e-4 lu­nar probe. The Chang’e-4 probe made an historic, first-ever soft land­ing on the far side of the moon, the moon’s un­charted side that was never pre­vi­ously ex­plored and is not vis­i­ble from Earth. | EPA-EFE CNSA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.