China hailed its mission to explore the dark side of the moon as a "complete success" so far on Friday, as it released video of its Chang'e-4 probe making landfall. The photos reveal a seemingly endless horizon of grey, rocky terrain.
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Humanity has sent dozens of probes to the near side of the moon, however, Chang'e 4 is the first spacecraft to reach the far side, which is more hard due to communication problems stemming from the fact that an entire relay system is necessary in order to pass messages to mission control.
Chang'e-4 probe touched down at the preselected landing area at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin on the far side of the moon on January 3, and the rover drove onto the lunar surface late that night.
In 2013, China became just the third country, after the USA and the then-Soviet Union, to successfully "soft land" on the Moon when its Chang'e 3 lander reached the lunar surface.
The pictures were transmitted by a relay satellite to a control centre in Beijing, although it wasn't immediately clear when they were taken.
Both machines also sent back panoramic pictures of the landing site and of the rover moving.
Researchers hope that low-frequency observations of the cosmos from the far side of the moon, where radio signals from Earth are blocked, will help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and birth of the universe's first stars.
"From the panorama, we can see the probe is surrounded by lots of small craters, which was really thrilling", Li was quoted as saying.
The mission consists of two robots: the Chang'e 4 lander and the Yutu 2 rover.
Unlike the near side of the moon that offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged.
One of the biggest challenges for the mission is getting information back to Earth. The Chang'e 4 is shown adjusting its altitude, speed and pitch as it seeks to avoid craters and uneven surfaces before it lands.
"The thicker dust shows that the lunar regolith in the region has undergone longer space weathering, which also gives strong evidence of the region being older".
The Chang'e 4 lander, as seen by the Yutu 2 rover.
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