Human space exploration has received another significant boost with the successful landing of a Chinese probe on the far side of the moon – a feat that has never before been accomplished. Chinese state media confirmed that the spacecraft had performed a ‘soft landing’ at 10.26am (2.26am GMT) on January 2. The confirmation came after an earlier tweet was deleted from China Daily and various other sources, proclaiming the mission a success.
The Chang’e 4 robotic probe performed a vertical landing in the South Pole-Aitken basin which is the largest and deepest crater on the Moon. Images have already been received that show the lunar surface.
Named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e 4 is communicating with a relay satellite that was previously been launched to a halo orbit by China in 2018 to send its data and imagery back to Earth.
The object of the mission is to look in close detail at the Moon’s terrain and mineral composition. The Chinese are hoping that the rocks in the crater will show evidence of what may be found in the Moon’s mantle as a result of the massive collision that originally created the Aitken basin and this could throw up an explanation of how the Moon was originally formed.
Moreover, this is a great achievement for the Chinese space industry, placing China at the very cutting-edge of space knowhow and technology. It is a viewed as much as a geopolitical move by observers as a technological and scientific one. Information gained on the mineral composition of the Moon could also eventually herald the beginning of mining the Moon for resources. Many believe that this accomplishment will see China announce manned missions to the Moon in the near future and the stamp of authority of China as a leading space power.