Prelims Level
Mains Level
Prelims Syllabus : Space Mains Syllabus : GS 3: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights

Context:

  • China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover scripted history on January 3 when it made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon and sent back close-up images of the previously unexplored region, a giant leap for cosmic exploration and a major boost to the China’s quest to become a space superpower.

Details:

  • China National Space Administration said that 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.
  • The lunar explorer has shared its first pictures from the surface.
  • The robotic spacecraft is carrying instruments to analyse the unexplored region’s geology and will conduct biological experiments.
  • This is the pioneering achievement as earlier moon missions that have landed only on the Earth-facing side, this is the first time any craft has landed on the unexplored and rugged far side of the moon.
  • 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
  • Chang’e-4 mission has four scientific payloads developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia. Chang’e 4 is the fourth lunar probe launched by China since the country’s lunar programme was opened in 2004.
  • China has now joined the U.S. and the former USSR as the only countries to have made a “soft landing” on the moon. But beyond underlining China’s technological advances, Chang’e-4 could herald a new chapter in lunar exploration.
  • The country also further aims to land a crewed flight on the moon in the coming decade.

Background:

  • Tidal forces on Earth slow the moon’s rotation to the point where the same side always faces Earth. The other side, most of which is never visible from Earth, is the far side of the moon. Direct communication with the far side of the moon, however, is not possible, which is one of the many challenges for the Chang’e-4 lunar probe mission.
  • China launched a relay satellite, named Queqiao, in May, to set up a communication link between the Earth and Chang’e-4 lunar probe.
  • This is the first time an attempt is made to explore the far side of the moon. Since the moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces Earth.
  • The far side of the moon is the hemisphere that never faces Earth, due to the moon’s rotation.
  • 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.
  • The Chang’e-4 mission will be a key step in revealing the moon’s mysterious side.
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