Chinese spacecraft makes first landing on Moon's far side

Katie Ramirez
January 3, 2019

China announced that it successfully landed a probe on the far side of the moon Thursday.

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.

The Moon's dark side remains largely unexplored because its position shields it from radio frequencies, preventing direct contact with the Earth. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon but none has landed on it.

The probe, which includes a lander and a rover, touched down at a preselected landing area, the official Xinhua news agency said, after it had entered the moon's orbit in mid-December.

Chang'e 4 was launched atop a Long March 3B carrier rocket on December 8 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwest China's Sichuan province.

Chang'e 3: First unmanned Moon landing of the Chang'e effort.

Because the far side faces away from Earth, it is also shielded from radio transmissions - making it the flawless place from which to study the universe.

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Chang'e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from overseas, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the far side.

No lander or rover has ever touched the surface there, positioning China as the first nation to explore the area.

In another extreme hurdle, during the lunar night - which lasts 14 Earth days - temperatures drop to as low as minus 173 degrees Celsius (minus 279 Fahrenheit).

In addition to home-grown scientific equipment, the Chang'e 4 mission also involves four scientific payloads developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

The move marks a global first that boosts Beijing's ambitions to become a space superpower, state media said.

China plans to send its Chang-e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples - the first time that will have been done since 1976.

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