China broadcasts spacecraft pictures from moon's far side

This composite image made available by NASA in 2011 shows the far side of Earth’s moon.
NASA  Goddard  Arizona State University via AP  
AP

This composite image made available by NASA in 2011 shows the far side of Earth’s moon. NASA Goddard Arizona State University via AP AP

China's lunar probe has sent the first panoramic image of its landing site since its historic arrival on the far side of the moon, showing the cratered landscape it is exploring.

A rover dubbed Yutu-2 - the name of the moon goddess's pet, the "Jade Rabbit" - successfully separated from the lander and drove onto the moon's surface yesterday.

The rover for China's Chang'e-4 mission has restarted activities following a period on standby as a precaution against high temperatures as the sun rose to its highest point over the landing site on the far side of the Moon.

Temperatures were expected to reach up to 200 degrees Celsius, but authorities from the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) said that the Yutu 2 rover, the lander and its relay satellite all survived the heat blast safely.

The pictures were transmitted by a relay satellite to a control centre in Beijing, although it was not immediately clear when they were taken.

The Von Kármán crater landing spot in the Aitken Basin is the oldest, deepest, crater on the moon's surface and the largest in the Solar System.

"From the panorama, we can see the probe is surrounded by lots of small craters, which was really thrilling", Li was quoted as saying.

Li said that one of the craters close to the rover Yutu-2 has a diameter of about 20 meters and a depth of about 4 meters.

"The information from the depths of the moon will be one of our focuses in the exploration", he said.

The Chinese space administration also released a 12-minute video of the spacecraft's landing, which can be seen below. The probe is shown adjusting its altitude, speed and pitch as it seeks to avoid obstacles on the ground. The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, so the far side - or the "dark side" - is never visible from Earth.

Scientists have said the far side is a key area for solving several unknowns about the moon, including its internal structure and thermal evolution.

While China certainly has reason to celebrate the accomplishments thus far with the Chang'e 4 mission, the country still has months of scientific observation and study ahead of it before it can declare all of its objectives complete.