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First Look: Chang’e Lunar Landing Site

On Jan. 3, 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4 safely landed on the floor of the Moon’s Von Kármán crater (186 kilometer diameter, 116 miles). Four weeks later (Jan. 30, 2019), as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter approached the crater from the east, it rolled 70 degrees to the west to snap this spectacular view looking across the floor toward the west wall. 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 (bright spot between the two arrows), and the small rover is not detectable. The massive mountain range in the background is the west wall of Von Kármán crater, rising more than 3,000 meters (9,850 feet) above the floor.

A grayscale photo of the surface of the Moon, showing the landing site of the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e 4. A large crater is prominent in the center of the image and a mountain range leading to a black sky at the top. The lunar surface is mostly flat, with many small craters and some larger ones visible. leading up to the mountains, which gradually change from foothills to tall mountains near the top edge. Below and to the right of the center crater, two tiny white arrows show the Chang'e landing site.
Arrows indicate position of Chang’e 4 lander on the floor of Von Kármán crater. The sharp crater behind and to the left of the landing site is 3900 meters across (12,800 feet) and 600 meters (1,970 feet) deep. LROC NAC M1303521387LR
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
A photo of the surface of the Moon, showing the landing area of the Chinese spacecraft Chang'e 4. Two large white arrows point to a tiny white dot at the center of the image, showing the lander. The lunar surface is gray and looks mostly smooth, with many craters and indents in the surface. Just below the lander is a crater that is larger than the others.
Area around lander enlarged by a factor of two relative to the native pixel scale, bright speck between two arrows is the lander. The large crater in the center (just right and below arrows) is about 440 meters (1,440 feet) across. LROC NAC M1303521387LR
NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Mark Robinson
Arizona State University

Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center