China Space Probe Lands on Dark Side of the Moon

 

China has become the first country to successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. The Chang'e-4 probe has also made the first lunar landing since 1972. It has the task of exploring the side of the moon that never faces earth.

The Chinese probe landed in a huge crater 2500 km in diameter and 13 km deep. The crater is one of the oldest parts of the moon and our solar system.

Scientists hope to learn more about the geology of the far side of the moon. The craft has two cameras on board which will send images back to earth. It will also attempt to send signals to distant regions of space, something that cannot happen on earth because of too much radio noise.

Chang'e-4 also has instruments on board to examine minerals as well as a container with seeds which will try to create a miniature biosphere.

 

Communication with the spacecraft is not easy. Images and other data must be transmitted to a separate satellite because no direct communication with the earth is possible.

For China the Chang'e-4 mission is an important achievement, because the country has successfully done something no other nation on earth has. It wants to become a leading power in space exploration and has announced plans to send astronauts to the moon and set up its own space station.

The dark side of the moon is older and has a thicker crust than the visible side. It takes the moon as long to rotate on its own axis as it does for one complete orbit around the Earth.

 

Chang'e-4 landing craft and the vehicle that can move around the surface of the moon
Image: Loren Roberts for The Planetary Society

 

 

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Words

  • achievement = something important that you have done
  • announce = to make public; to say officially
  • attempt = try
  • axis = imaginary line around which an object turns
  • biosphere = area in which plants and animals can live
  • crater = round hole in the ground made by a huge rock that crashed into it
  • crust = hard top part of a planet
  • data = information
  • distant = faraway
  • explore = to go to unknown places and find out more about them
  • face = look towards
  • far side = the side of the moon which we never see
  • geology = study of the rocks that make up the moon
  • image = picture
  • lunar = about the moon
  • mineral = material that is formed naturally and can be dug out of the ground
  • miniature = very small
  • probe = unmanned spacecraft
  • radio noise = unwanted electric signals
  • rotate = move around a central point
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seed = small hard objects produced by plants from which a new plant is formed
  • solar system= our sun and the planets that move around it
  • space exploration = to send spacecraft into other regions of space in order to find out more about them
  • space station = large spacecraft that stays above the earth and is the basis for people travelling in space or for tests and experiments
  • spacecraft = object that can travel into space
  • task = job; mission
  • transmit = send
  • visible = something that can be seen