Shanghai, December 30 – China's space probe first descends to the ground on the dark side of the moon, the official Xinhua news agency said Monday, a mission that is considered an important step as the country looks to push its space program.
The probe, Chang? E-4, today entered the planned orbit "to prepare for the first soft landing on the far side of the moon," the news agency quoted the Chinese National Space Administration as saying. He did not say when the landing would take place.
The moon is rather locked on Earth, rotating at the same rate as orbiting our planet, so that the far side – or "dark side" – is never visible from Earth. The previous spacecraft were seen farther away from the moon, but nobody landed on it.
China launched the Chang's E-4 investigation earlier this month, carried by the Long March-3B rocket. This includes the ice and the rover to explore the surface of the moon.
Xinhua said the probe entered the elliptical lunar orbit in Beijing at 08.55, bringing it to the nearest point just 15 kilometers from the surface of the Moon. Chang'-e-4 first entered the lunar orbit on 12 December.
Chang's tasks include astronomical observation, terrain measurement, moon and mineral composition of the moon, and measurement of neutron radiation and neutral atoms for studying the environment away from the moon.
China aims to reach Russia and the United States to become a great cosmic force by 2030. She plans to start building her own human space station next year.
However, while China insisted that its ambitions were purely peaceful, the US Department of Defense accused it of undertaking activities to prevent other nations from using resources during a crisis.
The Space Control Center will select the "appropriate time" to land the probe away from the moon, Xinhua reported. Its origin is aided by a relay satellite, Queqiao, or the Magpie Bridge. – Reuters