January 3rd 2019
The Chang'e 4 landed in the south pole Aitkin basin an area includes the Von Kraman crater which is characterized as being one of the oldest, largest and deepest impact craters on the moon's surface. It is believed that this crater may actually expose the Moon's mantle.
Chang’e 4 was launched atop a Long March 3B carrier rocket on December 8 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest China’s Sichuan province. It entered lunar orbit four days later.
This is a landmark moment for China, in 2013 the Chinese became just the 3rd country to reach the surface of the moon. This mission legitimized China's growing space program with the successful deployment of the Chang'e 3 unmanned orbiter and landing of a lunar rover dubbed the Jade Rabbit.
Up until now, the United States has lead the way for lunar exploration with no fewer than 17 moon landings since the 1960s. Nevertheless, this a huge achievement for the rising super power as they've become the first and only nation to successfully land on the far side of the moon.
Images from the Dark Side
The very first image from the Chang'e 4 probe has been released by Chinese state media depicting the barren moonscape.
Newly released images of the release of the YUTU 2 rover (Jade Rabbit).
Chinese Moon Mission
The ambitious Chinese project has been in the works for ver a decade with a series of missions from Chang'e 1 to Chang'e 4 with subsequent Chang'e 5 and 6 missions to follow (and possibly beyond) culminating with a plan of a manned moon mission. This would allow Chinese astronauts to be the second nation to set foot on the moon's surface and the very first to do so on the dark side of the Earth's companion.
A major obstacle to the successful completion of the current mission has been finding a way to deal with communication and logistical problems of having a probe on the far side of the moon that would inevitably put the space crafts out of contact with scientists and engineers back on Earth.
In order to solve this issue the Chinese space program first secured a satellite on the far side of the moon, the Queqiao. The satellite itself is able to remain in stable orbit 60,000 km above the far side of the moon enabling constant communication with the probe on the surface of the moon and with ground control in Beijing.
Aboard the Chang'e 4 probe is an array of instruments ready to inspect the composition and measure the geological attributes of the moon's surface.
China National Space Administration has said that Chang’e 4’s scientific tasks included astronomical observation using low-frequency radio; surveying the terrain and land forms; detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure; and measuring neutron radiation and neutral atoms – all to develop an understanding of the environment on the moon’s far side, also called the dark side.
The Next Phase
As part of the Chang'e Mission series the next phase, Chang'e 5, will include a lunar lander and rover capable of collecting further valuable data and samples. This phase is scheduled to take place in 2020
China will launch a returnable spacecraft called Chang’e 5 by 2020, under the third and final phase of the plan. Chang’e 5 will include a lunar lander and a rover that could return to Earth after collecting samples and performing surveys on the planet’s satellite, according to the CLEP.
Back in 2013, the Jade Rabbit lunar rover was incapacitated due to mechanical failure after only 40 days of activity. The Chinese claim that much improvement has been made and are optimistic about the performance of the future Chang'e 5 mission.
These are indeed exciting developments in the realm of space exploration as there's still so much to learn about our closest cosmic companion. Some are concerned that Chinese advancements will spark a new arms space arms race but hopefully peaceful scientific projects and future joint missions with the Chinese may prove to be beneficial for the entire human race and usher in a new era of space exploration and cooperation.
One can always hope.
At the very least, there should be some new images released in the coming days, mind you, probably highly censored.
Edit: I have corrected a statement declaring that China was the 2nd nation to successfully land on the Moon's surface. In fact, it was Soviet Union who first landed on the Moon on September 13th 1959 with an unmanned probe.