Overtaking Russia: In space, the US sees a rival in China

Katie Ramirez
January 7, 2019

While the USA, Russia and China have all successfully landed spacecraft on the side of the moon that faces earth, China alone has just landed on the "far" or "dark" side.

In Beijing, however, the successful departure of the rover was heralded as a giant leap for China's space programme, 50 years after Neil Armstrong left his footprints on the moon.

The craft's rover, called Yutu 2, has started to make its way across the lunar surface.

While China is the first to land a spacecraft on the far side, there have been plenty of detailed photographs taken by orbiting spacecraft.

Every semester, Purdue University lunar and planetary scientist Jay Melosh demonstrates how the far side gets light using a bright light as the sun and students playing the roles of the moon and the Earth.

The Yutu 2 rover moving farther across the moon's surface.

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Lunar rover Yutu-2 has been driving on the far side of the moon after separating from the lander and scientific devices on both the lander and rover are now gathering data, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said late Friday.

The record-breaking lander-rover is outfitted with a variety of instruments, including several cameras, spectrometers, a radar system and a dosimeter. Both China's space community and public have taken pride in the accomplishment, with some drawing comparisons to the United States.

Chang'e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from overseas, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the moons' far side.

"It's a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation", Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project, told state broadcaster CCTV, in a twist of US astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous comment when he became the first human to walk on the moon in 1969.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China on December 8, 2018, and entered orbit around the Moon five days later.

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