Chinese rover begins exploring far side of the moon

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The Jade Rabbit 2 rover has succeeded in establishing a digital transmission link with a relay satellite that sends data back to the Beijing control centre, the space agency said in a posting late Friday on its website. If the minerals found on the moon's far side are in any way useful here on Earth, you can bet all major nations will be jockeying over them. Named after a Chinese moon goddess, the spacecraft comprises a lander and a rover.

A photo taken by the lunar explorer Chang'e 4 at 11.40am China time (3.40 GMT) and published online by the official Xinhua News Agency shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the probe.

The six-wheeled rover, known as Yutu 2, isn't pausing to catch its breath, as a newly released photo shows.


At 3.07pm, experts sent the separation order to the probe via Queqiao. With the help of ground-penetrating radar, it will allow scientists to study the moon's mysterious "dark side", how its surface interacts with solar wind, and perhaps the process behind the formation of lunar water. It has a maximum speed of 0.1 miles per hour and can climb a 20-degree hill or mount an obstacle up to 8 inches tall, the report said.

Melosh traces the myth back to a Walt Disney television special in 1955 that talked about it always being dark on the other side of the moon and futuristic astronauts dropping flares.

The landing highlights China's growing ambitions as a space power.


Overall, Chang'e 4 is the second Chinese probe to make a soft landing on the Moon, following the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover mission in 2013.

China plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples - the first time that will have been done since 1976.

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. By comparison, NASA's Opportunity rover on Mars weighs about 181 kilogrammes, and the Curiosity rover there is much bigger, at 908 kilogrammes.


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