China makes history by landing on the far side of the Moon

An artist's impression of the moon lander for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe

The Chang'e-4 spacecraft scripted history on Thursday when it made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon.

The United States isn't the only country making waves in space: China's Chang'e-4 probe has successfully landed on the far side of the Moon. At 10:26 am, January 3 Beijing time, China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft made a successful soft landing in the Von Kármán crater within the moon's South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin.

Chang'e means Moon Goddess, a character from Chinese mythology.

Previous photos shared by China's National Space Administration show the first-ever close-ups of the far side of the moon's cratered surface.

The landing is the latest step for China in its race to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States and become a major space power by 2030.

Instruments on the lander and rover will study the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure of the area as well as perform low-frequency radio astronomical observation.

Chang'e-4 was launched on December 8, 2018.

Shortly after landing, Chang'e-4 returned a photo of the lunar surface by way a relay satellite in lunar orbit, named Queqiao, meaning Magpie Bridge.

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It then sent back a first orange-tinted photograph of the moon's so-called "dark side" via a special satellite that had been launched in May to provide a communications link with Earth.

The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate as it orbits our planet, so most of the far side - or "dark side" - is never visible to us.

The university also developed an innovative lunar topographic mapping and geomorphological analysis system that facilitated the selection of Chang'e-4's landing site. Because the moon circles the earth every 27.3 days in a synchronous rotation the side of the moon where Chang'e 4 landed remains facing away from earth.

This is China's second probe to make a soft-landing on the moon, following 2013's Jade Rabbit lunar rover mission.

It would also like to develop a moon base through several manned missions and plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year, which it hopes will return to Earth with samples.

Lunar project chief designer Wu Weiren called the separation of the rover "a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation".

Of course, there is a dark side of the moon.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, following Russian Federation and the U.S. It has put two space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s. "And we're gradually realizing it".

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