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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 2 mins ago - World

Vehicle bombing near Afghan school in Kabul kills at least 30

People gather at the scene of the bombing. Photo: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A vehicle bombing outside of a high school in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Saturday killed at least 30 people and injured more than 50, including multiple female high school students, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: It is at least the second bombing to strike students in Afghanistan in a little over a week. Violence in Afghanistan has escalated since President Biden announced that the U.S. would begin withdrawing troops in May and would complete a full withdrawal by Sept. 11, 2021.

Updated 1 min ago - Energy & Environment

Ransomware attack forces shutdown of major U.S. fuel pipeline

A police officer stands guard inside the gate to the Colonial Pipeline Co. Pelham junction and tank farm in Pelham, Alabama, in 2016. Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A major U.S. fuel pipeline running from Texas to New York has been taken offline by its operator because of a ransomware attack, Colonial Pipeline said Saturday.

Why it matters: It's a significant breach of critical infrastructure and comes on the heels of multiple other major cyberattacks on both U.S. companies and the federal government.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The wealthy exodus from superstar cities

Pandemic-induced remote work is chipping away at a recent trend of Americans staying put — but only for the well-off.

Why it matters: Telework has been lauded as a geographic equalizer, allowing talented people from all over the country to go for jobs in superstar coastal metros. But the benefits have largely been limited to wealthier workers — so far.