China continues to make history after landing on the Far Side of the Moon, also referred to as the “Dark Side.” The Yutu rover left the Chang’e-4 spacecraft to begin exploring the Moon yesterday.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a Tweet, “Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!”
This historic space mission is extraordinary because of how difficult it is. Due to tidal locking, the “dark” side of the Moon never faces the earth. For prior missions to the Moon, NASA astronauts visited the “lit” side of the Moon that faces Earth. In addition to always being in view of Earth, it’s easier to communicate, send data, and control spacecraft directly to/from Earth from the side of the Moon that faces it. While some refer to the sides of the moon as dark or light, both get the same amount of night and day as it rotates in step with the Earth.
Once systems are checked-out, the Yutu rover will begin to conduct experiments on the Moon’s Far Side. Chang’e 4 will perform a series of radio astronomy experiments and test whether plants can grow in the moon’s gravity. China hopes to set-up a manned base on the Moon in the coming years and plan to use learnings from this successful Moon landing to make future missions successful too.