FILE PHOTO: A growing crescent moon is visible above the center of the city of Warsaw on April 22, 2015. REUTERS / Kacper Pempel
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The Chinese space probe first moves to a position to land on the dark side of the moon, Xinhua official news agency reported Sunday, and this mission is seen as an important step, as the country hopes to advance its space program.
The Chang'e-4 probe went into the planned orbit on Sunday, "in order to prepare for the first soft landing at the far end of the moon," the news agency reported referring to the National Space Administration of China. It was not said when the landing will occur.
The moon is tidal attached to the Earth and rotates at the same speed as on our planet, so the reverse side – or the "dark side" – is never visible from Earth. Previous spacecraft had seen the opposite side of the moon, but no one landed on it.
Earlier this month, China launched the Chang'e-4 probe on the Long March-3B launch vehicle. It includes a landing gear and an all-terrain vehicle to explore the surface of the moon.
Xinhua said that the probe entered an elliptical lunar orbit at 08.55 Beijing time, which led him to the nearest point, just 15 kilometers from the surface of the moon. Chang'e-4 first entered lunar orbit on December 12.
The tasks of Chang'e-4 include astronomical observations, the study of the terrain, topography and mineral composition of the Moon, as well as the measurement of neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the Moon.
China seeks to catch up with Russia and the United States in order to become the main space power by 2030. Next year he plans to start building his own manned space station.
However, while China insisted that its ambitions were purely peaceful in nature, the US Department of Defense accused him of taking actions to prevent other countries from using space assets during a crisis.
The space control center will choose the "appropriate time" for landing the probe on the far side of the moon, Xinhua said. His descent helps satellite relay, Queqiao or Forty-bridge.
Report by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Christopher Cushing