In this photo provided on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, by China National Space Administration via Xinhua News Agency, Yutu-2, China’s lunar rover, leaves wheel marks after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon. A Chinese spacecraft on Thursday, Jan. 3, made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon, state media said. The lunar explorer Chang’e 4 touched down at 10:26 a.m., China Central Television said in a brief announcement at the top of its noon news broadcast. (China National Space Administration/Xinhua News Agency via AP)

China begins first surface exploration of moon’s far side

Previous moon landings, including from 1969 to 1972, have been on the near side of the moon

A Chinese space rover explored the lunar terrain on Friday in the world’s first mission on the surface of the far side of the moon.

Jade Rabbit 2 drove off a ramp the previous night and onto the soft, powdery surface after a Chinese spacecraft made the first-ever soft landing on the moon’s far side. A photo posted online by China’s space agency showed tracks left by the rover as it headed away from the spacecraft.

“It’s a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation,” Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project, told state broadcaster CCTV, in a twist of U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous comment when he became the first human to walk on the moon in 1969. “This giant leap is a decisive move for our exploration of space and the conquering of the universe.”

RELATED: China just landed on the far side of the moon

Previous moon landings, including America’s six manned missions from 1969 to 1972, have been on the near side of the moon, which faces Earth. The far side has been observed many times from lunar orbits, but never explored on the surface.

China’s space community is taking pride in the successful landing, which posed technical challenges because the moon blocks direct communication between the spacecraft and its controllers on Earth. China has been trying to catch up with the United States and other nations in space exploration.

“The landing on the far side shows China’s technology is powerful,” said He Qisong, a space expert at the East China University of Science and Law in Shanghai.

While China’s space program still lags America’s, He said “China has already positioned itself at least as good as Russia and the European Union.”

The news cheered people on the streets of Beijing on Friday, many of whom said it showed that China can now achieve or even surpass what the United States has done.

“I think this is very good evidence that we are now able to compete with the Americans,” said energy company employee Yao Dajun. “You can get on the moon and so can we — I think this is very good. It means our science and technology ability is getting stronger and the country is becoming more powerful.”

The news inspired dreamier thoughts for advertising employee Shang Yuegang. “Probably after some years ordinary people like us can also travel up there to take a look,” he said.

RELATED: B.C. astronomer explains importance of Chinese moon landing

The Chinese rover has six powered wheels, allowing it to continue to operate even if one wheel fails. It has a maximum speed of 200 metres (220 yards) per hour and can climb a 20-degree hill or an obstacle up to 20 centimetres (8 inches) tall.

“The surface is soft and it is similar to that when you are walking on the snow,” rover designer Shen Zhenrong of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said on CCTV.

Exploring the cosmos from the far side of the moon could eventually help scientists learn more about the early days of the solar system and even the birth of the universe’s first stars. The far side is popularly called the “dark side” because it can’t be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.

Ken Moritsugu, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: World-renowned illusionist, magician, escapist performs in Stettler

Matt Johnson performs two sold-out shows at Stettler Performing Arts Centre

Big Valley’s Harden family gives back

Donates $24,560 to Stettler Health Foundation and Edmonton Stollery Children’s Hospital

Oil and gas supporters plan Stettler rally

Focuses on ending carbon tax, no UN global compact for migration and building the pipelines

UK lawmakers reject Brexit deal in 432-202 vote

House of Commons votes against the deal struck between Britain’s government and the EU

WATCH: World-renowned illusionist, magician, escapist performs in Stettler

Matt Johnson performs two sold-out shows at Stettler Performing Arts Centre

Olivia and Liam top list for Alberta baby names in 2018

Premier Rachel Notley announced the top baby names in Alberta in 2018; Loki didn’t make the cut

Edmonton Police charged 236 people with auto theft in 2018

Police states many of the thefts are crimes of opportunity

Official torchbearers for 2019 Canada Winter Games announced

Canada Games officials open time capsule from Grande Prairie Games in 1995

Alberta Health Services, United Nurses of Alberta reach agreement to settle union grievance of nursing staffing shortage

Settlement includes the designation of 11.7 full-time-equivalent Registered Nurse relief positions

Woman’s complaint leads to sexual assault charge against Calgary priest

Malcolm Joe D’Souza, who is 62, has been charged with one count of sexual assault

British Parliament nears historic vote on Brexit

A ‘no’ vote would throw British politics into further turmoil

Most Read