China’s spacecraft just took a panoramic shot of the Moon’s far side

Getting to know you.
Getting to know you.
Image: Screengrab/CLEP via Weibo
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

China made history last week by delivering back to the world its first glimpse of the previously unseen far side of the Moon.

Today (Jan. 11), the Chinese Lunar Exploration Project (CLEP) office released two pictures on social network Weibo (link in Chinese) of the far side of the Moon, one a panoramic shot, the other a top-down projection of the same area. The picture was taken by the Chang’e-4 spacecraft, which consists of a lander and a rover named Yutu-2, which is equipped with tools like a lunar-penetrating radar to explore the Moon’s material composition. In the picture, the Chang’e-4 lander is behind the Yutu rover.

Researchers received the picture through the relay communication satellite Queqiao, which serves as a bridge for Chang’e-4 to communicate with people on Earth because direct communication isn’t possible.

The names of the spacecraft and relay satellite are both related to ancient Chinese stories, one about an ancient goddess Chang’e who lives on the Moon and keeps a rabbit called Yutu, or jade rabbit. “Queqiao” refers to a bridge formed by a flock of magpies which connects a couple from the Earth and the Moon once every year.

The picture indicates that the spacecraft and the relay satellite are both in good condition, CLEP said in the Weibo post. The Chang’e-4 lander took the picture after the Yutu lander woke up from a long “nap” since Jan. 4, shortly after it touched down. It took a break in order to avoid working under high temperatures, as the spacecraft landed during daytime in the Von Kármán crater, CLEP said (link in Chinese).