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Loving our Moon—Secrets and All

by Saundra McBrearty

Call me a selenophile, meaning I am a person who loves the moon. I relish feelings of serenity and awe when gazing at our nightly waning or waxing lunar show. And I’m proud all of us get to share the brilliant sky gem, Earth’s only natural satellite. I also delight in the mystery which lingers on the far side of our Moon.

The moon has a far side that has never been visible to us, a hemisphere that always faces away from Earth. The full moon we see each month is always the same side of the moon. This occurs because the moon rotates on its axis at the same rate as the moon orbits the Earth, a situation known as synchronous rotation or tidal locking. Enjoy this video link below to better understand how tidal locking works. 

Youtube video: Tidal Locking

It wasn’t until the first unmanned mission to the moon in 1959 by the Soviet Lunar Program that the first 14 photos of the far side of the moon was revealed. Since then more photos have been acquired. Astronauts on The Apollo 8 were the first humans to see the far side with the naked eye when they orbited the Moon in 1968. All manned and unmanned soft landings had taken place on the near side of the Moon, until 3 January 2019 when the Chang’e 4 spacecraft made the first landing on the far side. Here are some photos from some of those missions:

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2009, captured some of the most detailed images to date, including this mosaic image of the far side of the moon.   
China’s Chang’e-4 lander mission was the first craft to land on the far side of the moon. The closeup images beamed back after its Jan. 3, 2019 landing gave the first glimpse of the far side from the surface. The mission included the release of a rover, the Yutu-2.
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