China declares Chang’e-4 mission complete success

BEIJING (Xinhua) – China announced yesterday that the Chang’e-4 mission, which realised the first-ever soft-landing on the far side of the moon, was a complete success.

With the assistance of the relay satellite Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), the rover Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) and the lander of the Chang’e-4 probe took photos of each other.

The scientific instruments aboard the probe worked well, and the images taken by the probe and detection data have been sent back to ground control, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

At 4.47pm Beijing Time yesterday, the images of the lander and rover appeared on a large screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre, showing the Chinese national flag on both the lander and the rover with landscape dotted with craters in the background.

The Chang’e-4 probe touched down at the preselected landing area at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin on the far side of the moon on January 3, with the rover driving onto the lunar surface late that night.

Photo taken by the rover Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) shows the lander of the Chang’e-4 probe. – XINHUA

The rover then took a “nap” as solar radiation raised the temperature on the lunar surface to over 100 degrees Centigrade. It restarted its work last Thursday.

The lander, the rover and the relay satellite are in good condition. After the lander and the rover photograph each other, the probe will start scientific detection, the CNSA said.

China’s lunar exploration programme, which began in 2004, includes orbiting and landing on the moon and bringing samples back to Earth.

The programme has achieved five continuous successes, said CNSA, referring to Chang’e-1, Chang’e-2, Chang’e-3, a test craft for Chang’e-5 and Chang’e-4.

One of the images published by CNSA earlier yesterday was a 360-degree panorama, which was pieced together from 80 photos taken by a camera on the lander, according to Li Chunlai, Deputy Director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China and commander-in-chief of the ground application system of Chang’e-4.

“From the panorama, we could see the probe was surrounded by many small craters. It was really thrilling,” Li said.

“One of the craters close to the rover Yutu-2 has a diameter of about 20 metres and a depth of about four metres. The rugged terrain will pose great challenges for planning the route of the rover.

“Compared with the landing site of the Chang’e-3, which was sent to the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, on the moon’s near side, fewer rocks can be found in the area surrounding Chang’e-4, indicating the landing area of Chang’e-4 might be older.”