China's Spacecraft Makes the First-Ever Landing on Moon's Dark Side

The Long March 3B rocket transporting the Chang'e-4 lunar rover lifting off from the Xichang launch centre in December

China's Chang'e 4 sent back the first ever photos of the moon's "dark side". In contrast to other unmanned lunar expeditions by the U.S., Russia, the European Space Agency and India, the Chinese Chang'e 4 was a controlled landing on the far side of the moon.

Xinhua, a state-run news agency, reports that the China National Space Administration's Chang'e-4 touched down on the moon's surface at 10:26 a.m., Beijing time, on January 3, 2019.

Chang'e 4 and some future missions are paired with a communications relay satellite named Queqiao, launched in May 2018 into a unique, largely stable orbital point between the Earth and moon that allows it to have a "view" of the far side of the moon and the Earth at the same time.

In 2003, it became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States, and in 2013 completed its first lunar "soft landing".

Instruments on the lander and rover will study the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure of the area as well as perform low-frequency radio astronomical observation.

China's growing ambitions in space go hand in hand with its more terrestrial competition with the United States.

Pink Floyd weren't kidding about the dark side of the moon stuff.

As reported by the Metro, mission spokesman Yu Guobin said: "The far side of the moon is a rare quiet place that is free from interference of radio signals from Earth".

FILE - In this video grab taken at the Beijing Space Command and Control Center released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008, Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang walks outside the orbit module of the Shenzhou-7 spacecraft for a spacewalk after docking with the Chinese space station Tiangong 1.

If the mission is successful, scientists will have the opportunity to explore Moon's environment, which will be a great leap forward not only for China, but for the whole world.

While the far side of the Moon has been photographed since the 1950s, humankind has yet to successfully land there until now.

It communicates with Earth via the Queqiiao relay satellite, which launched in May to enable contact between ground controllers and Chang'e-4.

The landing for the new rover could have been tricky, since it is descending into one of the largest craters on the Moon and the uneven terrain could cause issues. It undergoes the same phases of illumination by the Sun as the side facing Earth. It also comes as tensions between the USA and China heat up. China builds already now an exclusive competition event to the worldwide space station, is mainly due to the Americans, who had rejected a few years ago a participation of China.

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