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This is the first picture of the moon’s far side taken by China’s probe after it landed

January 3, 2019

After Chang’e 4 safely touched down, the lander’s cameras sent back this image of the Von Karman crater that its rover will now explore. 

The news: Chang’e 4 touched down on the moon’s far surface at 10:26 Beijing time (9:26 p.m. US eastern time) last night, state media reports. It’s the first time any spacecraft has ever landed on the side of the moon that is permanently facing away from Earth.

Coming in to land: The spacecraft entered an elliptical lunar orbit over the weekend, passing as close as 15 kilometers above the moon’s surface. Previous landings on the Earth-facing side of the moon have been landed remotely from mission control. Instead, Chang’e 4 used hazard-avoidance software to check for dangers at the landing site, as David Rothery explains at The Conversation today.

Praise: The successful landing was confirmed by state television station CGTN, which tweeted out the first historic picture. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet: “Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!”

Radio science: Chang’e 4 will now perform a series of radio astronomy experiments and test whether plants can grow in the moon’s gravity. 

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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