China's Yutu 2 Rover Makes Tracks on Far Side of the Moon

The Yutu 2 rover moving farther across the moon's surface

The Yutu 2 rover moving farther across the moon's surface

The rover, which weighs around 300 pounds, will explore the surrounding area of the far side of the moon, never before traversed.

"It's a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation", Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project, told state broadcaster CCTV, in a twist of USA astronaut Neil Armstrong's famous comment when he became the first human to walk on the Moon in 1969.

While China is the first to land a spacecraft on the far side, there have been plenty of detailed photographs taken by orbiting spacecraft. A photo released by the agency showed the rover stopped at a point not far from where the Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down Thursday. "This giant leap is a decisive move for our exploration of space and the conquering of the universe". With the help of ground-penetrating radar, it will allow scientists to study the moon's mysterious "dark side", how its surface interacts with solar wind, and perhaps the process behind the formation of lunar water.

The Moon's far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

Nevertheless, this is a significant step in China's bid to become a leading power in space exploration, alongside the United States and Russian Federation. Yutu 2 has already put a fair bit of space between itself and the lander, trundling over near the rim of a small crater on the floor of Von Kármán, which itself lies within an even larger impact feature - the 1,550-mile-wide (2,500 km) South Pole-Aitken Basin.

"As long as we keep it clean of radio interference, the far side of the moon is very good for radio astronomy", he said.

China completed its first lunar "soft landing" in 2013, but its "Jade Rabbit" rover began malfunctioning after several weeks.

The probe also took six live species - cotton, rapeseed, potato, arabidopsis, fruit fly and yeast - to the lifeless environment to form a mini biosphere, Xinhua said. It has a maximum speed of 0.1 miles per hour and can climb a 20-degree hill or mount an obstacle up to 8 inches tall, the report said.

"The surface is soft and it is similar to that when you are walking on the snow", rover designer Shen Zhenrong of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said on CCTV.

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