Chinese New Space Leap.. Probe Lands on Far Side of Moon, Sends Picture

By: Yassmine ElSayed

CAIRO, Jan. 3 (SEE) Chinese People’s Daily newspaper reported that China landed a lunar probe on the far side of the moon, the first ever spacecraft to reach the surface that always faces away from Earth.

In a step which boosts the country’s ambitious space program, Chang’e-4 lunar probe, named after the mythical Moon Goddess, landed today and relayed a picture.

Landing on the unexplored region will enable Chang’e-4’s rover to better study the moon because of the lack of electromagnetic interference from Earth. The rover is equipped with a low-frequency radio spectrometer to help scientists understand “how the earliest stars were ignited and how our cosmos emerged from darkness after the Big Bang,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. Scientists will test whether plants can grow while on the moon, it said.

According to Bloomberg, the feat caps a series of lunar missions China has launched over the past few years as part of its plan to become one of the world’s top three aerospace powers by 2030. The nation’s space budget is about $8 billion a year, second only to the U.S.

The moon landing comes at a time when tensions between the two powers are at an all-time high, with their economic, technological and military rivalry deepening amid China’s quest for dominance.

Aerospace is among sectors President Xi Jinping has identified as key to modernizing China’s economy. That means developing its own technology for planes, rockets, satellites and other spacecraft.

In 2017, a state-owned company successfully test flew the nation’s first home-built single-aisle passenger plane. The country has also rolled out an alternative to American-owned GPS, while local startups are racing to launch rockets and microsatellites.

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