China’s Chang’e 4 Peers Into Vastness of Moon’s Unexplored Far Side

Moon's Far Side

 

On Jan. 3, 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4 safely landed on the floor of the Moon’s Von Kármán crater (186 kilometer diameter) located within an even larger impact crater known as the South Pole–Aitken basin roughly 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 13 kilometers deep –the largest impact crater in the Solar System.

Most astronomers agree that the Moon was formed in a huge impact between a Mars-sized object and the Earth, about 100 million years after the formation of the Solar System. The energy from this impact would have melted the Earth’s crust and sterilized the planet, providing a ‘blank slate’ for the beginning of life on Earth. Earth’s moon is the largest, in proportion to its parent planet, of any moon of any of the eight major planets in the Solar System. To an astronomer, the similarity in sizes is so close that the Earth–Moon system can be regarded as a double planet.

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Four weeks later, as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter approached the crater from the east, it rolled 70 degrees to the west to snap this spectacular view looking across the floor toward the west wall. Because LRO was 330 kilometers (205 miles) to the east of the landing site, the Chang’e 4 lander is only about two pixels across (bright spot between the two arrows), and the small rover is not detectable.

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The massive mountain range in the background is the west wall of Von Kármán crater, rising more than 3,000 meters (9,850 feet) above the floor.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and Gribbin, John. Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique (p. 115). Kindle Edition.

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