China has named the landing site of its Chang’e-4 lunar probe “Statio Tianhe” –after the Chinese name for the Milky Way Galaxy for the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon last month. The Chang’e-4 probe, launched on December 8, landed on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on January 3. As of today, a total of 12 lunar features have been named by China.
The name, along with others for three craters and a peak nearby, were agreed by the China National Space Administration, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the International Astronomical Union. The Chang’e-4 probe is setting the groundwork for a human return to the moon, which includes several manned missions, building a permanent space station and reaching to Mars.
The International Astronomical Union has also approved four other names for features near the landing site. The IAU is the officially recognized authority in astronomy for assigning designations to celestial bodies such as stars, planets and minor planets, including any surface features on them.
“Tianhe” is the Chinese word for Milky Way and “Statio” is Latin for base. Before “Statio Tianhe,” only one place is listed on lunar maps as “Statio,” namely “Statio Tranquilitatis” (Tranquillity Base), the site the Apollo 11 crew members of the United States landed and walked on in 1969, Xinhua reported.
China’s first Mars probe is scheduled to be launched on a Long March 5 by 2020 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, South China’s Hainan Province. The probe will orbit, land and deploy a rover on the Red Planet.