China lands first spacecraft on far side of moon

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The Chang'e-4 lunar lander sits on the far side of the moon.

The mission highlights China's growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russian Federation and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement its position as a regional and global power.

As The Verge reports, exploring the far side of the Moon is a very hard task because it's always facing away from the Earth meaning communication is extremely hard.

Landing the vessel, named after Chang'e, the goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology, was no easy feat.

Many lunar orbiters have shown the moon's two sides are very different: the near side is relatively flat, while the far side is thickly dotted with impact craters of different sizes. Therefore, only one side of the moon is seen from earth, leaving the far side a mystery before the age of spacecraft.

TRT World spoke to Associate Professor of Astrophysics at Keele University Jacco van Loon.

China is studying possible manned moon landings for sometime after 2025.

In 1959, the Soviet probe Luna 3 was the first to snap photographs of the lunar far side, with its 18 photographs revealing one-third of the moon's surface invisible from Earth.

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With the use of a rover, the Chang'e 4 will be put to work on the moon's surface, making astronomical observations and probing in order to work out the structure and mineral composition of the moon's terrain.

The Long March 3B rocket carrying Chang'e 4 blasted off on December 8 from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southern China.

The Chang'e-4 probe landed in the unexplored South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest, oldest, and deepest basin on the moon's surface, Chinese state media reported on Thursday afternoon. Since the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces Earth.

Jim Bridenstine, the administrator at the U.S. National Aeronautics & Space Administration, congratulated China on the accomplishment in a Twitter post, as did billionaire Elon Musk.

Yu Guobin is a Chang'e 4 mission spokesman.

The moon is tidally locked to earth, rotating at the same rate that it orbits the earth. When there's a full moon in our sky, the far side is dark. In the States, NASA has announced its own plans to land astronauts on the moon and eventually colonize Mars in the coming decades.

Months back, China launched relay satellites that help the lander and rover to remain in contact with its handlers on Earth despite not being in direct line-of-sight. The United States is the only country that has successfully sent a person to the moon, though China is considering a crewed mission too.

Chang'e-4 also brought to the lunar surface the first mini-greenhouse to test whether - and how well - plants like potato and thale cress and organisms like silkworms will grow on the moon.