Pictures taken by Chang’e 4 lander and rover beamed back to Earth and shown on state TV
China on Friday broadcast pictures taken by its rover and lander on the far side of the moon, in what its space programme hailed as another triumph for the groundbreaking mission.
The pictures, shown on the state broadcaster CCTV, showed the Jade Rabbit 2 rover and the Chang’e 4 spacecraft that transported it during the first soft landing on the side of the moon that always faces away from Earth.
The pictures were transmitted by a relay satellite to a control centre in Beijing, although it was not immediately clear when they were taken.
Showing the rover moving away from its lander, officials with the China National Space Administration said they marked a “total success” for the mission.
The pictures show a rocky surface with the jagged edges of craters in the background, which will pose a challenge for controllers in plotting the rover’s travels, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Among the images is a 360-degree panorama stitched together from 80 photos taken by a camera on the lander after it released the rover on to the lunar surface, Xinhua said, citing Chunlai Li, the deputy director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China and commander-in-chief of the Chang’e 4 ground application system
“From the panorama, we can see the probe is surrounded by lots of small craters, which was really thrilling,” Li said.
The space administration also released a 12-minute video of Chang’e 4’s landing, made up of more than 4,700 images taken by an onboard camera. The probe is shown adjusting its altitude, speed and pitch as it seeks to avoid obstacles on the ground.
Researchers hope that low-frequency observations of the cosmos from the far side of the moon, where radio signals from Earth are blocked, will help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and the birth of the universe’s first stars.
The terrain has been observed many times from lunar orbits but never explored on the surface. It is popularly known as the “dark side” because it cannot be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.
The pioneering landing highlights China’s ambitions to rival the US, Russia and Europe with its space programme, through manned flights and the planned construction of a permanent space station.