China’s Chang’e-4 probe entered a planned orbit on Sunday “to prepare for the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon.” Since the moon is tidally locked to Earth, or in other words, rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, the far side — or “dark side” — is never visible from Earth. The Chang’e-4 probe launched earlier this month, carried by a Long March-3B rocket, and includes a lander as well as a rover to explore the moon’s surface. Read more for another video and additional information.
The probe officially entered elliptical lunar orbit at 08.55 Beijing time, which brought it at its closest point a mere 15 kilometers away from the surface of the moon. It will conduct astronomical observation, survey the moon’s terrain, landform / mineral composition, and measure the neutron radiation / neutral atoms to study the environment on the moon’s dark side.
“China aims to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. It is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year. The space control center will select a “proper time” to land the probe on the far side of the moon. Its descent is being aided by a relay satellite, the Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge,” reports CNBC.