It hasn’t been easy to track the movements of the Chang’e-4, the Chinese spacecraft that embarked on a journey 26 days ago to the Moon’s far side.
Unlike NASA, which live-broadcasted the landing of its Mars InSight rover in November, China had kept almost all the details of the mission under wraps until the last moment—to the extent that even China’s state media were only allowed to report the news two hours after the spacecraft landed successfully this morning (Jan. 3).
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Soon after the news was made public by state broadcaster CCTV, images and videos showing the landing of the Chang’e-4 began to proliferate.
This video, posted by state media, displays a simulation of the landing, which begins with the Chang’e-4’s controlled descent into the Von Kármán crater.
In another video (link in Chinese) posted to social network Weibo, a reporter from CCTV watching from a control center revealed that the Chang’e-4’s descent was fully automated. The spacecraft, said the reporter, assessed its surrounding environment and “nobody on the ground had any chance to interfere with the process.” The Weibo video also shows actual footage of the moment of Chang’e-4’s touchdown at 10:26 am local time on a gray, rugged surface.
Through the Chang’e-4, China hopes to conduct research into what happened billions of years ago when the impact crater was believed to be formed on the Moon. It’s also hoping to be able to detect certain frequencies that might reveal clues to the origins of the universe in an environment devoid of background noise.
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