Beijing advances space ambitions with far-side moon landing

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China's state media confirmed that touchdown occurred at 10:26 a.m. local time; later in the day, the China National Space Administration released the first close-ups of the surface of the far side, taken by Chang'e-4 after it landed. So in May 2018, China put a communications relay satellite called Queqiao into a loop 65,000 kilometers beyond the moon at Earth-moon Lagrange Point 2, a gravitationally balanced location from which the spacecraft can exchange signals with both Earth and the moon's far side.

Several conspiracy theorists have started arguing that the Chinese lunar mission to the far side of our natural satellite may discover big craters on the moon's surface which are actually the result of NASA's secret bombings. The successful soft-landing is important for space exploration because there is relatively little information about the far side of the moon compared to the side closest to Earth, which has been explored and surveyed by previous missions.

The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral makeup, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side.

In Chinese folklore, Yutu is the white pet rabbit of Chang'e, the moon goddess who lent her name to the Chinese lunar mission. Over the weekend, the Chang'e 4 successfully entered an elliptical path around the moon.

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface of the far side of the moon, and it is no easy technological feat.

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The mission left Xichang Satellite Launch Center on December 8 and was reported to have reached lunar orbit four days later. The final descent came about from a landing orbit 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) above the moon's surface. The landing site is in the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Beijing says the propaganda value of China's leaps forward in its space programme has been tempered by careful media management.

In 2013, the predecessor spacecraft Chang'e 3 made the first moon landing since the former Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976. Scientists want to know how old - somewhere between 3.9 billion and 4.4 billion years old - to better understand a period in the solar system's history called the late heavy bombardment. Scientists believe the far side could be an excellent place to perform radio astronomy, because it is shielded from the radio noise of Earth.

There is much to explore on the far side of the moon.

"China is acutely aware that the USA have designs on space military capabilities and is looking to make sure it can match or outmatch them and develop a military force to be a credible threat".

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