Ever since China’s Chang’e-4 mission made history in early January by becoming the first spacecraft to ever touch down on the far side of the moon, the intrepid Chinese lander has continuously made headlines all over the world with its trailblazing exploits.
Just like other space agencies worldwide, NASA has also shown a keen interest in China’s latest moon mission. In late January, the U.S. space agency positioned its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) above the Chang’e-4 landing site and snapped an epic photo of the lunar far side – the side of the moon that always faces away from Earth.
The incredible photo was unveiled today on the NASA website and offers a stunning aerial view of the location of China’s Chang’e-4 lander. The snapshot was taken on January 30 and showcases a spectacular perspective of the Von Karman crater on the so-called “dark” side of the moon.
To capture the photo, NASA’s LRO spacecraft “approached the crater from the east” and then “rolled 70 degrees to the west” to take a detailed look at the crater floor toward the west wall of the depression. The result is a jaw-dropping portrait of the western section of the moon’s Von Karman crater, with the position of the Chang’e-4 on the crater floor indicated by a pair of arrows.
“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,” NASA explained in the photo release.
In fact, the Chinese lander is barely visible inside the 116-mile-wide crater. The 2,600-pound Chang’e-4 spacecraft is so tiny that, even when the image has been enlarged by a factor of two, its still appears as a mere bright spot on the crater flood. Meanwhile, the 308-pound “Yutu 2” rover deployed next to the lander is not even detectable in the photo.
The spectacular LRO snapshot reveals a breathtaking view of the crater’s west wall, which appears as a “massive mountain range” in the background of the image. The center of the photo is occupied by an enormous moon crater, looming to the left of the Chang’e-4 landing site. According to NASA, this gigantic crater is 12,800 feet wide and 1,970 feet deep.
While a plethora of moon craters have been captured by the LRO camera, in the photo release NASA has drawn attention to the small crater found right next to the Chang’e-4 landing site, visible to the right. This particular crater, which appears massive in the enlarged version of the photo, measures 1,440 feet across – a behemoth compared to the Chinese lander, but quite minuscule in rapport with the crater in the center of the photo, which is actually nearly nine times larger.
The fantastic LRO photo was made possible due to a collaboration between NASA and the China National Space Administration (CNSA). As the Inquisitr previously reported, NASA teamed up with the CNSA in mid-January with the goal of using the LRO orbiter to observe a signature of the Chang’e-4 probe’s landing plume.
“Science gathered about how lunar dust is ejected upwards during a spacecraft’s landing could inform future missions and how they arrive on the lunar surface,” NASA explained last month, when the U.S. space agency first announced the project.