Chinese spacecraft makes first-ever landing on far side of the moon

China just landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon: state media

This is the first time any spacecraft has landed on the far side of the moon.

Declaring that it has opened a new chapter in lunar exploration, the China National Space Administration announced late Monday night that its Chang'e-4 lander had safely set down on the far side of the Moon. The original Yutu rover touched down, along with a lander, on the moon's near side in December of 2013 on the Chang'e 3 mission.

Chang'e 4 sent a picture taken at 11:40 in the morning back to Earth.

The six-wheeled rover landed in the southern section of the Von Kármán crater, near the moon's south pole, Chinese media reported.

The far-side landing is China's first attempt at "something that other space powers have not attempted before", Ye Quanzhi, an astronomer at Caltech, told the BBC.

He added that China plans to explore Mars, Jupiter and asteroids in the future.

The moon's far side is sometimes called the "dark side" in popular culture because it is always unseen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.

Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon but none has landed on it.

"Congratulations to China's Chang'e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon".

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The Chang'e-4 mission will be a key step in revealing the moon's mysterious side, a report by state-run Xinhua news agency said.

Following the December 7, 2018 launch of the Chang'e 4 mission using a Long March-3B/G3Z booster/launch vehicle the Chinese spacecraft reached lunar orbit last weekend.

The Chang'e-4 probe, carrying eight payloads including two developed through global cooperation, will conduct low-frequency radio astronomical observation, survey the terrain and landforms, detect the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure and measure the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon, according to CNSA.

What is the "far side of the Moon"?

Not only does is position China as a space superpower in the eyes of the the rest of the world, but it also marks a landmark achievement in Earth's space exploration history. The main lander is also equipped with an onboard experiment to determine if plant seeds will germinate under lunar gravitational conditions.

Chang'e 4 could also contribute to radio astronomy.

China's lunar program began with orbiting observatories, Chang'e-1 and -2, in 2007 and 2010, respectively.

China's next lunar mission, with the Chang'e-5, is expected to launch next year and bring back lunar samples for the first time since 1976.

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