When China landed their Chang’e 4 spacecraft on the far side of the moon last week, the whole world was floored.
First of all, no one has ever done that before. We’ve always only sent our spacecraft to the near side of the moon for one main reason: it’s hard to establish ground connection when you’re so far away. After all, every spacecraft needs to establish and maintain a direct radio link with the ground control at all times. Even on the near side, it’s scary enough to think that you can lose that connection– your only connection to the ground– at any time. But when you’re on the far side, it’s downright terrifying.
And yet, there was China, charging straight ahead and doing what we always thought was unthinkable.
What can we learn from this magnificent feat? For one, if you want something done, you can always find a way. China sent a satellite behind the moon to keep an eye on their probe at all times, so even if they lose connection, it’ll always be in China’s line of sight. For another, the Chang’e 4 probe landed on a never-before-visited region of the moon, which means scientists can now study this area. That makes it very exciting for scientists who are seeing this landing as a brand new opportunity for science to progress.
China has opened a whole new world for scientists to explore, and the rest of us can’t wait to know what they’ll discover.