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China shows first panoramic photos of the far side of the moon

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 11/01/2019 Sophia Yan
Panoramic photos of the moon were taken by the Chang'e-4 spacecraft © Telegraph Panoramic photos of the moon were taken by the Chang'e-4 spacecraft

China has released panoramic photos of the far side of the moon after a Chinese spacecraft made the world’s first successful landing there earlier this month.

The China National Space Administration has published 360-degree panoramic photos taken by a camera installed atop the Chang’e 4 probe, showing the gray, pock-marked surface of the moon.

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The images were transmitted via the Queqiao satellite, allowing scientists to conduct a preliminary topographical analysis of the landing site, Chinese state media reported.

The Chang’e 4 probe was launched in early December from China’s Sichuan province, carried by a Long March-3B rocket.

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. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon, but nobody had ever landed on it before.

After making a soft landing on Jan. 3 at 10:26 am, Chang’e 4 released a lunar rover to roam and survey its surroundings in the Van Karman crater, the moon’s largest, oldest and deepest one, located in the South Pole-Aitken basin. The pictures show the greatest expanse yet of the dark side of the moon © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited The pictures show the greatest expanse yet of the dark side of the moon

Upon initial landing, the probe relayed an image back to Earth, though Friday's panoramic photos show a greater swathe of the far side of the moon.

China’s successful landing on the far side of the moon is considered an important step in efforts to rival Russia and the US by becoming a major space power by 2030. Next year, China plans to launch construction of a manned space station.

People on Earth are unable to see the dark side of the moon © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited People on Earth are unable to see the dark side of the moon

While Beijing has said its ambitions are purely peaceful, the US has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from accessing space-based assets in a crisis.

Targeting the far side, or the "dark side" of the Moon was a riskier and more complex mission than previous ones – direct communication with the spacecraft was not possible, and unlike the near side of the moon with many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged.

The Chang’e 4 is aiming to complete tasks that include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral composition, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon.

Gallery: Spectacular images from space (Photos)

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