China Lands Chang’e-4 on Far Side of the Moon

China’s Yutu 2 rover drives off the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

China made history on Thursday with the first soft landing on the far side of the moon.

Chang’e-4 successfully touched down in the South Pole–Aitken basin and later deployed the Yutu 2 rover. It was China’s second successful landing on the moon after Chang’e-3 touched down on the near side and deployed a rover in December 2013.

The lander includes the following payloads:

  • landing and terrain cameras;
  • a low-frequency spectrometer;
  • a neutrons and dosimetry (LND) dosimeter supplied by Kiel University in Germany;
  • a container with silkworm eggs and seeds of potatoes and Arabidopsis thaliana; and,
  • a miniature camera to record the growth of the eggs and seeds.
A view of the moon from the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

The rover’s payloads include:

  • a panoramic camera;
  • a lunar penetrating radar system;
  • a visible and near-infrared imaging spectrometer; and,
  • and an advanced small analyzer for neutrals (ASAN) provided by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) to measure the interaction of the solar winds with the lunar surface.

The lander and rover will communicate with the Chang’e 4 relay satellite, which was launched last year.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Congrats and well done China.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    I think they need to adjust the color on their camera, the Moon looks a little Marsy.

  • SamuelRoman13

    Turn, you will never make it through that crater. I said to watch out landing as there was a deep crater in the landing area. But this is a little too close. If it is the crater I saw. Maybe there are a lot of them in the area. I think you landed blind and lucked out. It is just propaganda that you have obstacle avoidance.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    The rover Yutu will wander out and make a ‘major’ discovery: it will find a 33-rpm vinyl record made by Pink Floyd nearby. let’s see how many geeky armchair astronauts on this message board have a sense of humor…or a love of great music, like this: .

  • Paul_Scutts

    Jacob, “Wish You Were Here” could also be an appropriate Floyd album. Regards, Paul.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    LOL. 🙂

  • duheagle

    The Chinese have put two lunar landers down now without misadventure. I don’t see the case for “dumb luck” as an explanation getting stronger here.

    I am mystified by your notion that the Chinese are lying about having developed real-time obstacle avoidance software. The Chinese are certainly no strangers to the uses of fabulation, but they’re also not known to lie pointlessly or stupidly – unlike, say, the Russians.

    Are you of the opinion that the Chinese are, as a nation or individually, incapable of doing this? A number of rather small U.S.-based lander companies are all either doing, or have done, something comparable. The Chinese have long demonstrated considerable computer hardware and software capability. Also, Asians score about a half standard deviation higher on general intelligence tests that we round-eyes do. They’ve got the goods.

    Might the Chinese obstacle avoidance software still have limits? Probably. The Chinese were careful to pick a landing time in early lunar morning when a low sun angle throws any obstacles into sharp relief via shadowing. Perhaps software capable of equivalent performance at lunar high noon is still a work in progress. But stepwise refinement from initial “good enough” versions is how all technology advances in all places, China included.

    Credit where it’s due, Dude.

  • SamuelRoman13

    I said I think. Guess would have been better. Of course It goes without saying that they could. I need more info before I give them credit. I read one report that said they did, but there were so many questionable statements that it was easy to dismiss any part.

  • SamuelRoman13

    A small “tin” in the lander contains seeds of potatoes and rockcress (Arabidopsis thaliana, a flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, as well as a model organism for plant biology), as well as silkworm eggs. The idea, according to a report
    in The Telegraph earlier this year, is that the plants will support the
    silkworms with oxygen, and the silkworms will in turn provide the
    plants with necessary carbon dioxide and nutrients through their waste.
    The researchers will watch the plants carefully to see whether the
    plants successfully perform photosynthesis, and grow and bloom in the
    lunar environment. From
    What if the silkworms eat all the plants? Short experiment? Maybe they will cocoon before they eat the plants or the plan is for them to not eat all. No waste to fertilize the plants though. Life is so complicated even on the Moon.

  • Robert G. Oler

    well done

  • duheagle

    You might want to consider the usefulness of more nuanced or conditional language, as opposed to flat declarations, when writing about things you aren’t really in a position to definitely know. Keeps you from looking foolish.

    If the putative Chinese obstacle avoidance software is based on shadows produced at low sun angles, you might not see much zigging and zagging on the way down as the roughest areas would show the most and longest shadows and be apparent from higher up where very modest sideways vector adjustments wouldn’t be very apparent on a downward-facing rocketcam view. I agree that any readily apparent zigging or zagging close to the surface would pretty much clinch the case for the existence of real-time obstacle avoidance.

    I don’t know if the Chang’e 4 lander has a downward-facing rocketcam or not, though it seems as if it should in this day and age. Even if it does, the Chinese might not release the footage obtained. But if they do, I will be very interested in looking at it.

  • Lee

    No blind luck here… from AvLeak:

    “Because of the rough surface of the far side of the Moon, Chang’e 4 had to make a precise landing and a nearly vertical descent: Approaching as Chang’e 3 did, along a shallow arc and with less precision, would have risked crashing into some topographical feature. Controllers initiated descent from an altitude of 15 km (50,000 ft.), at which time the craft was moving at 1.7 km/sec. (3,800 mph) relative to the Moon. A rapid attitude adjustment was made at 6-8 km altitude. At 100 m (330 ft.) altitude, the craft hovered to survey the terrain; it identified obstacles and chose a relatively flat spot, to which it slowly descended.”