Chinese lander becomes first spacecraft to touch down on far side of the Moon
The China National Space Administration made history today by successfully deploying its Chang'e-4 probe on the far side of the moon, a feat that has never been achieved before.
Landing on the far side of the Moon isn't as simple as the many unmanned lunar missions to go before Chang'e-4. Because this region of the Moon is obstructed from view for scientists on Earth, the complicated mission required a satellite to first be deployed beyond the Moon so it can relay the signals.
That satellite was successfully launched back in May, and has now been used to confirm the successful landing of Chang'e-4 in the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin, which measures around 2,500 km across and 13 km deep (1,550 and 8 mi).
The China National Space Administration confirmed that the lander touched down at 10.26 am today (Beijing time), according to a report from state broadcaster CCTV.
The rover will now get to work checking out this region for the first time in the history of space exploration. The area is thought to be home to huge amounts of ancient water ice deposits, remaining intact due to the lack of direct sunlight.
Also adding to the intrigue is the fact that the far side of the Moon is shielded from the Earth's radio waves, which makes it a good place to search for cosmic radio waves emanating from elsewhere in the universe. Beyond that, by scouring the depths of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, it is hoped Chang'e-4 can uncover some insights into the makeup of the lunar crust and mantle, and further our understanding of how the Moon came to be.
And the China National Space Administration won't be resting on its laurels following this history-making rendezvous. The successor to this intrepid spacecraft, Chang'e-5, will attempt to not only land on the Moon some time next year, but return samples of it to Earth for further study.