Rover explores far side of the moon
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