The space agency's deputy director, Wu Yanhua, said NASA shared information about its lunar orbiter satellite in hopes of monitoring the landing of the Chang'e 4 spacecraft, which made China the first country to land on the far side of the moon earlier this month. That image was taken prior to Chang'e 4's touchdown, explained LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson, who's based at Arizona State University in Tempe.
Chang'e 4 has two main components with the stationary lander that sits on the surface and a six-wheeled rover that cruises the surface called Yutu 2. Soon thereafter, a color image of the mission's immediate surroundings was relayed back to Earth.
Scientists have said the far side is a key area for solving several unknowns about the moon, including its internal structure and thermal evolution.
Indeed, the surprising number of craters around the landing site will pose "a great challenge" for the lunar rover during future explorations, noted the Xinhua news agency.
Meanwhile, a senior Chinese space expert reported that China plans to deepen its lunar exploration plans, including establishing a scientific research station in the south polar region of the moon. State-run media outlet China Daily said at the time: "China's Chang'e-4 landed on the moon's far side, inaugurating a new chapter in mankind's lunar exploration history".
Prominent UFO hunter Scott C Waring also says there is a lack of moon rocks in the images, which suggests the Chinese are not on the lunar satellite.
The Chang'e-5 probe, originally scheduled to collect moon samples in the second half of 2017, will launch by the end of the year, Mr. Wu said. Mission planners at the China National Space Administration (CNSA) will have to be wary this and other pits as they control the movements of Jade Rabbit 2, also known as Yutu 2.
Ironically enough, Chang'e 4 landed inside a crater - the Von Karman Carter within the South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the largest documented impact craters in the Solar System. The Chang'e 4 lander and rover are not in this photo; it was taken before the duo's historic January 2 touchdown.
Scientists are looking into "whether we can use 3D printing technology" to build lunar facilities, he added. "It would be operated automatically and visited by people for short periods", Wu said. It would help realize the aim of bringing Mars samples back to Earth and sending Chinese astronauts to the moon.