Chang’e 4 robots send back epic images of moon’s mysterious far side

The Yutu-2 rover snapped this image of its space chaffeur, the Chang’e 4 lander, on the far side of the moon. NASA’s Doug Ellison processed the photo and shared it online. 

CNSA/Doug Ellison

A new batch of images from the far side of the moon landed on the internet this week after a relatively quiet period. The scenes sent back by China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander and its Yutu-2 rover provide the most detailed look yet at the permanently obscured side of our natural satellite. 

Apollo astronauts flew above the back side of the moon decades ago, but Chang’e 4 managed the first ever soft landing on the otherwise unseen side in January 2019.

In case you weren’t aware, the moon is tidally locked to the Earth, meaning that it doesn’t rotate on its axis like our planet does. As a result, we earthlings are always staring at the same side of the moon. This doesn’t mean, however, that one side of the moon is always dark, as Pink Floyd might have you believe. Because the moon tracks Earth as we rotate, different parts of its surface alternate facing toward or away from the sun.

The far lunar surface

CNSA/Techniques Spatiales

Since it landed, Chang’e 4 and its rover buddy have been busy taking pictures, examining weird substances and even gardening. The new images released by China’s space agency were made available for anyone to process. A number of amateurs and also pros like NASA’s Doug Ellison took up the cue, sharing some gorgeous processed and sharpened images.

The high-resolution view that the two robots have been sending back provides an excellent, 21st century look at a place that humans have yet to visit, but could soon. 

NASA hopes to send astronauts to the lunar south pole as part of its Artemis effort this decade, and expeditions to the far side might not be much further off. Good thing China is getting that garden started ahead of time. 

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China’s voyage to the far side of the moon


Originally published 11:53 a.m.

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