Chinese rover begins exploring far side of the moon


China's lunar rover after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon. Image: PA

Friday, January 4, 2019

A lunar rover has begun exploring the far side of the moon in the first-ever mission of its kind.

The Jade Rabbit 2 sent back a photo of the tracks it had left in the moon's soft, snow-like surface after a Chinese spacecraft successfully landed carrying the equipment.



Previous moon landings have only ever explored the side of the moon that faces the Earth, with the far side having only ever been seen from lunar orbits.

"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.


'Conquering of the universe'

"This giant leap is a decisive move for our exploration of space and the conquering of the universe."

Exploring the cosmos from the far side of the moon could eventually help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and even the birth of the universe's first stars.

The far side is often referred to as the "dark side" because it cannot be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown.

The Chinese rover has six powered wheels, allowing it to continue to operate even if one wheel fails. It has a maximum speed of 200 metres per hour and can climb a 20-degree hill or an obstacle up to 20cm tall.