China Becomes First to Land Unmanned Spacecraft on Far Side of Moon

China Becomes First to Land Unmanned Spacecraft on Far Side of Moon

China solved that problem a year ago when it launched a lunar satellite called Queqiao, which now acts as the communication link between the lander and Earth. The lunar explorer Chang'e 4 touched down at 10.26am (2.26am GMT) local time and took an incredible never-before-seen "close range" photo from the surface (shown left) in a global first.

A Chinese space probe successfully touched down on the far side of the moon on Thursday, China's space agency said, hailing the event as a historic first and a major achievement for the country's space program. The first grainy pictures came from a former Soviet Union craft in 1959.

The work of Chang'e 4, which is carrying a rover, includes carrying out astronomical observations and probing the structure and mineral composition of the terrain.

The landing confirmed China's military-run space programme as a leading power as competition builds to explore the moon after a decades-long lull.

Fitted with cameras, ground-penetrating radar and other tools, Chang'e-4 was created to help scientists answer lingering questions about our moon's geologic past.

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In Chinese folklore, Yutu is the white pet rabbit of Chang'e, the moon goddess who lent her name to the Chinese lunar mission. The United States is still the only country to have humans step foot on the moon. It carries a number of high-end equipment which have been designed and manufactured to study and record the geology of Moon's far side that has so far not been explored.

Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the China Lunar Exploration Project, called the landing a trailblazing milestone. The lander has now descended into the 13 kilometre (8.1 mile)-deep South Pole-Aitken Basin in what was described as a soft landing, and will release a 140kg rover to investigate the surface when ready.

China also shared some images of what the far side of the moon looks like taken by the Chang'e-4 probe. That's when space rocks were careening off each other and crashing into moons and planets, including Earth.

"China has never said it is in a space race with the U.S., and has no such intention", said Professor Wang Xiangsui, director of the Research Centre of Strategic Issues at Beihang University. It plans to start operating its first space station by 2022, launch probes to Mars and send astronauts out again.

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