China just landed a spacecraft of the dark side of the moon, marking the first time humans have seen what shadowed secrets that mysterious half of the lunar surface hides. And folks, it looks exactly like the near side of the moon.
The Chinese National Space Administration’s Chang’e 4 vehicle touched down on the moon’s far side Thursday morning, AP reports. Instead of finding a collection of record players spinning Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon backwards, the probe sent back a photograph of a desolate rocky surface pitted with a single crater, said to be the oldest and deepest on the moon. Although the dark side of the moon isn’t always technically dark, it is largely unknown to scientists, and its composition is different than that on its near side. Chang’e 4 will study its terrain.
Getty ImagesChina News Service
The moon was first visited by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, and the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and China have all landed spacecraft on its surface in the years since. If the minerals found on the moon’s far side are in any way useful here on Earth, you can bet all major nations will be jockeying over them. China’s increasing interest in space exploration also includes plans to operate a third space station, send astronauts to the moon, and get a probe out to Mars, The New York Times reports. In the States, NASA has announced its own plans to land astronauts on the moon and eventually colonize Mars in the coming decades. And so the 21st century space race gets hotter.
Four billion miles past the moon, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft photographed Ultima Thule, the furthest world yet explored by humankind, as the New Year rang in. 2019 is shaping into a big one for firsts in space.