Chinese lunar probe Chang'e-4 has become the first man-made spacecraft to successfully land on the far side of the Moon.
The probe touched down in the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin at 10:26 Beijing time (02:26 Greenwich Mean Time) on 3rd January, according to the China National Space Administration.
So far, three countries - the United States, the former Soviet Union and China - have sent their lunar landing missions to the near side of the Moon, but this is the first time that a country has successfully landed a space probe on Moon's dark side.
Chang'e-4 was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan on 7th December. It entered the orbit around the Moon on 12 December, and then achieved a stable elliptical lunar orbit on 30th December.
After making a soft-landing on the lunar surface, Chang'e-4 beamed back an image of the Moon's surface to the mission team on Earth. The image was captured at 11:40 a.m., and shows a small crater and a barren surface on the Moon. With no direct communication link possible with the Chang'e-4 spacecraft, the image was bounced off another satellite, named Queqiiao, before it could be relayed to the Earth.
Queqiiao was launched in May 2018 to enable communication between the ground controllers and the Chang'e-4 spacecraft.
Chang'e-4 probe includes a lander and a rover, and aims to explore Von Karman crater located within the SPA Basin. This huge crater is about 13 kilometres deep and is thought to have been formed following a giant impact occurring early in Moon's history.
The probe will also study the sheet of melted rocks in SPA Basin as well as the far side regolith to help scientists understand the formation of the Moon.
Scientific instruments on board Chang'e-4's lander will also carry out low-frequency radio astronomy observations on the far side of the Moon. This side of the Moon remains shielded from the radio noise of the Earth, therefore scientists believe it could be an ideal spot to perform radio astronomy experiments on the Moon.
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