China’s Chang’e 4 makes first-ever soft landing on moon’s far side

Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon at 10:26 Thursday morning, marking a breakthrough in human exploration of the universe, according to a statement the China National Space Administration (CNSA) sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

The probe sent back images at 11:40 am, about one hour after landing in the Von Karman Crater of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, said the administration, unveiling the moon’s far side for the first time in lunar exploration history. 

The far side of the moon refers to the hemisphere that never faces the Earth and cannot be seen directly from the Earth.  

The lunar lander touched down and sent signals from the moon’s far side to the Earth for the first time, launching “a new chapter in human exploration of the moon,” according to the administration’s statement. 

The probe’s lander and rover successfully separated on Thursday night, Xinhua reported. The first photo of the Yutu II rover landing on the far side of the moon was snapped by a camera attached to the lander and sent to Earth via the Queqiao satellite. 

The name Yutu II was picked for the rover of Chang’e-4 from 42,945 online suggestions from all over the world including Light, Walking Man and Elf, CNSA announced on Thursday night.

The rover looks like its predecessor Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, China’s first lunar rover launched in 2013.

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An image of the moon’s dark side. Chang’e-4’s lander descends to the moon’s surface. Photo: China National Space Administration (CNSA)

But the newer rover has adaptable parts and an adjustable payload configuration to deal with the more complex terrain on the far side of the moon, the Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.

Hashtags related to Chang’e-4’s moon landing had been viewed more than 100 million times as of press time on Thursday evening.  

Internet users almost universally welcomed the landing. 

“Chang’e flying to the moon is a myth and we are realizing the myth,” Sina Weibo user Zanjia posted. 

“Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!” tweeted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

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An image shot after Chang’e-4’s soft landing on the moon’s dark side. Photo: China National Space Administration (CNSA)

‘Blind landing’

Rocks on the moon’s far side are comparatively more ancient than those on the front, Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based aerospace expert, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Chang’e-4 will help humanity learn the origin and evolution of the moon and help with low-frequency radio astronomical observations, Pang said. Those observations may well lead to some major astronomical discoveries, he noted. 

It was not easy for Chang’e-4 to land in the heavily cratered, mountainous South Pole-Aitken Basin, he said.

The basin was created by the impact of a meteor and is one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system. It is about 2,500 kilometres in diameter and 13 kilometres deep, according to Xinhua.

Unlike the Chang’e-3 probe landing on the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, on a parabolic trajectory, the Chang’e-4 probe made a vertical descent at the Von Karman Crater, said the CNSA. 

“The Von Karman Crater is believed to have great scientific research potential. The region is also comparatively flat, making it safer for Chang’e-4 to land there,” Pang said.

A vertical landing helped Chang’e-4 avoid hitting rocks on the far side. As Chang’e-4 cannot directly communicate with the Earth, the probe relays communication – with a 1-minute delay – through the satellite Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, said CNSA. 

Such a time difference creates the conditions for a “blind landing,” meaning the probe must land on its own, using information installed in advance.

To ensure a safe landing, Chang’e-4 was equipped with an autonomous diagnosis system to detect and resolve problems for itself. 

The probe can also work at night to record the temperature of the far side, another improvement on Chang’e-3, Pang said. 

Cooperative future

More than 100 spacecraft and probes have been launched onto the moon since the 1950s, but none soft-landed on the moon’s far side, Zou Yongliao, deputy director of the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference in November 2018.

Chang’e-4 is carrying eight payloads including a low frequency radio spectrometer from Germany and detectors from Sweden.

Instruments will conduct low-frequency radio astronomy observations, research the structure of the moon’s surface and study neutron radiation on the moon’s far side.     

CNSA said that with data provided by the Chang’e-4 probe, they would like to jointly explore the universe in cooperation with foreign space agencies, research institutes and space enthusiasts. 

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Broader mission

The Chang’e-4 landing moves China a step closer to the establishment of a moon base. The lunar exploration project was initiated in 2004 as China’s first step into deep-space exploration. 

The Chang’e-1 to Chang’e-5 lunar probes constitute the first of three phases from unmanned lunar exploration through manned moon landings to the establishment of a moon base. 

The construction of the moon base will be controlled by artificially intelligent robots and occasionally managed by human beings after astronauts are sent to the moon, China News Service reported in March, citing Zhao Xiaojin, Party chief of the China Academy of Space Technology at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

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Breaking news: the Minoans colonised Jupiter!

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The famous Minoan swimming dolphin, followed by a fish, can be seen clearly. Philosophers of art are attempting to decode its porpoise.

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Dolphin fresco, c. 1500 BC, Knossos palace, Crete.

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So you thought you knew pink poppies?…

Pink-poppy

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M42: Inside the Orion Nebula

and as for pink waterfalls…

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M43: Orion Falls

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The Tarantula Nebula

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Sorry, my mistake.

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The Tarantula Nebula

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Beatrice guides Dante in his ascent to contemplation

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Comet 12P Between Rosette and Cone Nebulas

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Sandro Botticelli, Dante and Beatrice, n.d., The University of Texas, Austin

Light I beheld which as a river flowed,

Fulgid with splendour; and on either shore

The colours of a wondrous springtime showed.

And from the stream arose a glittering store

Of living sparks which, winging mid the blooms,

To rubies set in gold resemblance bore.

Dante, The Divine Comedy, Paradise, Canto XXX

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Astronomy, formal and dialectical reason

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Formal reason:

‘Since fire is the rapid acquisition of oxygen, and since oxygen is a key indicator of life, fire on any planet would be an indicator of life on that planet.’

Dialectical reason:

To consider this statement dialectically, one would think creatively – of the relationship between destruction and creation. Hegel did this from the idealist perspective –

‘Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being stable and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by that Dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite. We have before this (§80) identified Understanding with what is implied in the popular idea of the goodness of God; we may now remark of Dialectic, in the same objective signification, that its principle answers to the idea of his power. All things, we say – that is, the finite world as such – are doomed; and in saying so, we have a vision of Dialectic as the universal and irresistible power before which nothing can stay, however secure and stable it may deem itself.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, Trans., William Wallace, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1975, Remark to §81, 118

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I know which view of the Empyrean I think more spiritual

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Gustave Doré’s 1855 illustration for The Divine Comedy: ‘Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean’.

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Neutrino associated with distant blazar jet

There is nothing in the world but matter in motion, and matter in motion cannot move otherwise than in space and time. Human conceptions of space and time are relative, but these relative conceptions go to compound absolute truth. These relative conceptions, in their development, move towards absolute truth and approach nearer and nearer to it. The mutability of human conceptions of space and time no more refutes the objective reality of space and time than the mutability of scientific knowledge of the structure and forms of matter in motion refutes the objective reality of the external world.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 158

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As nature, so knowledge

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The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi

‘Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly approximates a series of circles, a spiral. Any fragment, segment, section of this curve can be transformed (transformed one-sidedly) into an independent, complete, straight line, which then (if one does not see the wood for the trees) leads into the quagmire, into clerical obscurantism (where it is anchored by the class interests of the ruling classes).’ 

Lenin, ‘On the Question of Dialectics’, 1915, Collected Works, Vol., 38 (Philosophical Notebooks), Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972, 355-363, 363

‘Spiral in Development: a figurative description of the process of development employed by Engels and Lenin in elucidating the law of the negation of the negation. Development produces in phenomena an apparent return to the old in the course of change: some features of a lower level are repeated at a higher level. This may be depicted graphically as a spiral in which each new coil repeats the preceding one, but at a higher level. Development in a spiral forms a contrast to the typically metaphysical idea of development as being motion along a closed circle without any new elements.’

Dictionary of Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1984, 398-99

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The aesthetic relation of art to reality – design in the Sistine Chapel and in the storms of Jupiter

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Jupiter’s zones and belts dominant near its equator decay into a complex pattern of continent-sized storm swirls

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Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1508-1512, Vatican City

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NASA and a disk, science and art

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Seven Dusty Sisters – the Pleiades star cluster.

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A colour-composite image of the Pleiades from the Digitised Sky Survey

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The Nebra sky disk, dated circa 1600 BC. The cluster of dots in the upper right portion of the disk is believed to be the Pleiades. Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

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