China has broadcast pictures taken by its rover and lander on the moon’s far side, in what its space program hailed as another triumph for the groundbreaking mission to the less-understood sector of the lunar surface.
The pictures on state broadcaster CCTV showed the Jade Rabbit 2 rover and the Chang’e 4 spacecraft that transported it on the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, which always faces away from Earth.
The pictures were transmitted by a relay satellite to a control centre in Beijing, although it wasn’t immediately clear when they were taken. “The lander, its rover, and the relay satellite are all in a stable condition. They have reached the predetermined engineering goals, right now they are getting into the stage of scientific searches,” Zhang Kejian, director of the China National Space Administration, said before engineers at the Beijing centre.
“Now I declare that the Chang’e 4 mission, as a part of the Chang’e Lunar Exploration Program, has been a success,” Mr Zhang said.
Pictures transmitted back show a rocky surface with the jagged edge of craters in the background, posing a challenge for controllers in plotting the rover’s future travels, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Among the images is a 360-degree panorama stitched together from 80 photos (partly seen in the pictures above) taken by a camera on the lander after it released the rover onto the lunar surface, Xinhua said, citing Li Chunlai, deputy director of the National Astronomical Observatories of China and commander-in-chief of the ground application system of the lunar spacecraft.
“From the panorama, we can see the probe is surrounded by lots of small craters, which was really thrilling,” Mr Li was quoted as saying.