China's Chang'e-4 probe makes historic landing on moon's far side

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While the Moon is relatively a stone's throw away from Earth (just 384,400km away), the far side has remained unexplored.

We've known for a long time about the CNSA's ambitions to get a probe landed on the far side of the Moon - and it has now made good on its promise.

The far side of the moon has been seen and mapped before, even by astronauts of the Apollo missions.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe made a soft-landing and transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the far side of the moon, the China National Space Administration said.

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

The relay satellite was launched in May and is now running on a halo orbit about 65,000km from the Moon, where it can see both Earth and the Moon's far side. The world's first image of the far side of the Moon was captured on 7 October 1959, by the Luna-3 Soviet station, but until today, no spacecraft from Earth has ever reached it.

Chang'e 4 will make astronomical observations and examine the structure and mineral composition of the ground above and below the surface.

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After touching down, the Chang'e 4 probe sent a photo of the far side to the Queqiao satellite, which is relaying communications to controllers on Earth, state broadcaster CCTV said. The Chang'e-4 probe has already sent back its first pictures from the surface.

Chang'e-4 launched on December 8, and the trip to the moon took the spacecraft four days. Since the moon's revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, the same side always faces Earth. China's space agency was quick to post new photos snapped from the lander, declaring the touchdown and deployment of its lunar rover a success.

However, in terms of science and engineering, it's a remarkable achievement which should be praised, as NASA administrator Jim Brindestine acknowledged.

That satellite has been orbiting the moon since May 2018.

Chang'e 4 could also contribute to radio astronomy. It was initially constructed as a backup for Chang'e 3, which landed on the near side of the moon in 2013.

"The current landing location is our most ideal landing place, in other word, we are right on target". The Von Kármán crater is one the oldest and deepest impact craters on the surface of the moon and scientists are expecting to find clues about the formation of the moon and possibly our solar system. Researchers believe that the SPA basin that the craft landed in could have lunar mantle on the surface, brought up by an ancient collision.