International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover lands on moon’s far side


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Chang’e-4

Mains level: Space Objects and their significance


  • China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover scripted history when it made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon.

Chang’e-4 Mission

  1. Chang’e-4 named after a Chinese moon goddess and comprising a lander and a rover, touched down at the preselected landing area at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude on the far side of the moon.
  2. The lunar explorer landed on the far side of the moon and has already sent back its first pictures from the surface.
  3. The pioneering achievement is another demonstration of China’s ambitions to be a space power.
  4. The robotic spacecraft is carrying instruments to analyse the unexplored region’s geology and will conduct biological experiments.
  5. The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on December 8 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province.
  6. It landed on the Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitken basin and then sent back a picture of the landing site shot by one of the monitor cameras on the probe’s lander, marking the world’s first image taken on the moon’s far side.
  7. The scientific tasks of the Chang’e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon.

What makes it special?

  1. The far side has been extensively photographed by spacecraft, starting with a Soviet probe in 1959, but no probe had ever made a soft landing onto it.
  2. Scientists around the world have not been able to conduct close observations and surveys of the region for decades.

South Pole of the Moon

  1. Tidal forces on Earth slow the moon’s rotation to the point where the same side always faces Earth.
  2. The other side, most of which is never visible from Earth, is the far side of the moon.
  3. Since the moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces Earth.
  4. The far side of the moon is the hemisphere that never faces Earth, due to the moon’s rotation.
  5. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the “dark side of the moon,” even though it receives just as much sunlight as its Earth-facing side.

About Chang E

  1. Named after the goddess of the moon in Chinese legends, the first Chang’e spacecraft was launched in 2007 to verify China’s lunar probe technology, obtain lunar images and perform scientific surveys.
  2. The Chang’e 2 followed in 2010 to carry out high-definition imaging of the moon and investigate landing conditions for the Chang’e 3.
  3. Chang’e 3 landed on the moon in 2013.
  4. Chang’e 3 released the first Chinese lunar rover, Yutu, on the moon and worked there for around 1,000 days.
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