China lands probe on dark side of the moon

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The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has landed the Chang'e 4 lunar probe on the far side of the Moon, Chinese media reported on Wednesday night (Eastern Time)-marking the first time that any known spacecraft has made a soft landing on the Moon's more distant half.

The probe, which includes a lander and a rover, touched down at a preselected landing area. So in May 2018, China put a communications relay satellite called Queqiao into a loop 65,000 kilometers beyond the moon at Earth-moon Lagrange Point 2, a gravitationally balanced location from which the spacecraft can exchange signals with both Earth and the moon's far side. China also says that it intends to launch missions to explore other planets as well.

They called the landing "a major milestone in space exploration". The far side of the moon has great promise as a place to study the cosmos using radio waves because it removes a large amount of interference that Earth-bound and orbiting telescopes suffer from. But China got around this by launching a satellite last May that acts as a relay between the lander and Earth.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe, launched in December, made the "soft landing" at 0226 GMT and transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the dark side of the moon, the China National Space Administration said.

Today's successful landing of the Chang'e-4 probe is being hailed as a major milestone in China's mission to rival the United States and Russian Federation in the field of space exploration. "Success!" posted Lin Xiaoyi, a science and space news blogger at 10:29 a.m. By 11 a.m., English-language Twitter accounts of the state-run media China Daily and CGTN had announced the successful landing, but the tweets were quickly deleted. According to the Guardian, the news was officially re-announced at shortly after noon by CCTV.

For now, it plans to send a Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples - also not done since the Soviet mission in 1976. However, moon missions waned after the Soviet Union collapsed and NASA directed funds toward worldwide space stations and exploration of the rest of the solar system.

Of particular interest to lunar scientists is the geological and mineral makeup of the landing site, said de Grijs, who now works at Macquarie University in Sydney.

The hidden side is said to be mountainous and rugged, dotted with craters, while the visible side offers many flat surfaces for landing.

The dominant feature is the 2,500km-wide South Pole-Aitken basin, the Moon's oldest and deepest crater.

Since launching its first astronaut into space in 2003, China has been on an ambitious drive to catch up with the pack led by the United States.