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China’s ambitious Chang’e 4 Space Lander has been photographed by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Chang’e 4 Lander touched down on the ‘dark’ and previously unexplored side of the moon on January 4.
The recently released Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image was taken on January 30.
"As LRO approached the crater from the east, it rolled 70° to the west to snap this spectacular view looking across the floor towards the west wall," writes Mark Robinson for Arizona State University's LRO Camera site.
Tiny light splash confirmed as the lander.
You might need to zoom in to see the Chang’e Lander which appears in the image as a tiny bright spot. It’s accompanying rover, Jade Rabbit 2, is also in the area but was not visible in the LRO image.
NASA is in an agreement with the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) to observe Chang'e 4', the American space agency paid particular attention to the way the Chang'e 4 Lander kicked up dust as it touched the moon's surface.
China is the first nation to send a space probe to the far side of the moon. Despite its ominous name, this side of the moon receives just as-as much light as the earth facing side.
Lander and Rover will investigate unexplored moon territory
Instruments on the lander and rover are studying the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface of the moon as well as performing low-frequency radio astronomical observation.
“China is on the road to become a strong space nation. And this marks one of the milestone events of building a strong space nation," chief designer for the lunar mission, Wu Weiren, told CCTV at the time of the moon landing.
The mission made history by growing plant life on the moon for the first time. The Chinese spacecraft carried a sealed metal canister containing potato seeds, oilseed rape seeds, cotton seeds, arabidopsis, drosophila melanogaster, and yeast.
First seeds sprout in space
The mini biosphere was designed by Chongqing University.
“The plants would generate oxygen and food for other living things to 'consume'. The drosophila melanogaster, as consumers, and yeast, as decomposers, would generate carbon dioxide by consuming oxygen for photosynthesis of plants. In addition, the yeast can decompose the waste of plants and drosophila melanogaster and grow, and can also serve as food of drosophila melanogaster. With this circle, a mini biosphere comprising producers, consumers, and decomposers is formed,” describes the Chongqing University page.
The cotton seeds successfully sprouted but soon withered in the extremely cold temperatures of the moons night. Despite their shortlived life, the sprouts are an exciting breakthrough for space science.
Growing food in space is a key factor in ambitious exploration projects like colonizing Mars. If food can be successfully grown on the moon, it could mean Mars colonies would not need to rely on Earth for supplies.