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Chang'e-4 on the surface of the Moon. Photo: Xinhua/CNSA via Getty Images

A team of scientists has reconstructed the exact descent and landing of the Chinese lunar lander Chang’e-4 on the far side of the Moon, a new study in Nature Communications shows.

Why it matters: Chang’e-4’s January landing could act as a blueprint for more distant autonomous landings on other objects like asteroids in the future.

  • China's space agency should now have "a lot of confidence in the system that they've produced," which could embolden the agency to take it elsewhere in the solar system, geologist Clive Neal told Axios.

Details: The study’s authors pieced together photos taken by the lander during descent and by the Yutu-2 rover after landing in the Von Kármán crater to get a detailed look at how the landing succeeded.

  • Photos — beamed back to Earth by the Queqiao satellite — revealed that the lander touched down on the slope of a crater and was actually “surrounded by 5 craters,” according to the study.
  • The team traced the exact landing location to 177.5991°E, 45.4446°S at an elevation of -5,935 meters.

The big picture: Landing on the Moon is no easy feat, as multiple recent missions have shown.

  • Both Israel’s Beresheet and India’s Chandrayaan-2 landers failed during their descents to the lunar surface this year.
  • “Chang'e-4 is a great reminder that we can succeed with ambitious and scientifically important space missions using increasingly autonomous systems,” Ella Atkins, director of the Autonomous Aerospace Systems Lab at the University of Michigan, told Axios via email.
  • So far, only China, the U.S. and the Soviet Union have successfully managed to land and operate spacecraft on the Moon.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

6 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.