On January 3, a major step in China’s ambitions to become a space superpower has become true. 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. The Chang’e-4 mission — named after a moon goddess — made the world’s first soft landing on the moon’s far side.

This is the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the first Yutu rover mission on its Earth-facing side in 2013.

On Thursday, 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.

On Friday a photo that was released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) with the help of a camera deployed on Chang’e-4.

The picture shows the grey moonscape, the lander and the rover with the track marks it left behind. The image is a circular, 360-degree shot, which scientists used to create another wide panoramic picture.

The panoramic image (right half, pictured) also reveals the Yutu-2 rover and its tracks. The tracks will never be removed from the lunar surface as there is no wind or atmosphere to blow or erode them away

The CNSA said in a statement, “Researchers have completed the preliminary analysis of the lunar surface topography around the landing site based on the image taken by the landing camera,”.

Chang’e-4, the Yutu-2 and the Queqiao relay satellite that beams data back to Earth are “in a stable condition, and all work was carried out as planned,” the statement said.

After being on “standby mode” for five days, the 140-kilogram (308-pound) rover resumed activities on Thursday.

Chang’e-4 landed within the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin, the largest and deepest impact crater in the solar system.

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


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Vikram Aadi extensively covers Asia's personal device and connected services ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and culture. Hit him up on Twitter, or via mail: vikram@thb2.com.

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