In a 1st for the world, the Chinese National space Agency successfully landed a spacecraft on the far facet of the moon Thursday, a state broadcaster reported .
The probe, named Chang’e 4, launched in early December — the latest in a series of missions aimed at exploring the moon and paving the way for Chinese astronauts to eventually land on the lunar surface. The country plans to launch a sample come back mission to the moon later this year.
Though the U.S. and Russia have also operated robotic craft on the moon, Chang’e 4 is the 1st to land on the facet of the satellite that always faces faraway from the world.
The geology on this side of the moon is distinctive, with more craters and fewer evidence of volcanic activity. but it’s tough to explore, because scientists on Earth can’t communicate via direct radio wave with spacecraft in this remote region.
Chang’e 4 includes a lander, a rover and satellite that can relay signals to Earth — allowing the Chinese National space Agency to communicate with their craft.
The mission, that is mainly scientific, will explore a large impact crater close to the South Pole, using cameras, ground-penetrating radar and spectrometers to know the composition of the area.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated China in a tweet Wednesday night, writing, “this is a 1st for humanity and an impressive accomplishment.”
China was tight-lipped about the mission in the run-up to the landing; it didn’t announce beforehand when it would attempt to land the craft. U.S. law effectively prohibits official collaboration between the american and Chinese space programs.
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But the landing demonstrates China’s ambitions to become a space power and scientific force. The country spends more on research project than any nation but the U.S., and a recent report predicted that the country would pull into initial place this year.