China has made history by becoming the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. On Thursday, Jan. 3, the Chang'e-4 touched down in the South-Pole Aitken Basin.
State media reported that the unmanned probe has already sent back photos from the still-unexplored region of the moon. With no direct communication link to Earth, all data sent by the probe go through a separate satellite first before getting relayed to ground control.
"This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration," stated Zhu Menghua, a professor at the Macau University of Science and Technology. "We Chinese people have done something that the Americans have not dared try."
Not many details were immediately made available.
The Chang'e-4's Long Journey To The Moon
China's lunar probe launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province on Dec. 8. Four days later, the state media reported that the spacecraft has entered the orbit of the moon.
This weekend, the spacecraft entered an elliptical path around the moon in preparation for landing, bringing it as close as 15 km away from the lunar surface.
What China Expects To Find In The Far-Side Of Moon
Landing a probe on the far side of the moon is indeed a triumph for the China National Space Administration. While there have been several missions that explored the lunar surface, including the six-manned mission, the far side of the moon has been left unexplored.
Because it is always facing away from Earth, direct communication between a rover and ground control is impossible. China addressed the issue by also launching a satellite to orbit the moon earlier this year.
Aside from carving its place in the history of space exploration, the touchdown on Thursday can offer valuable new knowledge about the moon. The Von Kármán crater located within the South Pole-Aitken Basin, where the Chinese rover has landed, is believed to be oldest and deepest on the moon.
The mission also hopes to analyze the surrounding basin. Some suspect that it might be rich in minerals.
"This is a major achievement technically and symbolically," explained Namrata Goswami, an independent analyst. "China views this landing as just a stepping stone, as it also views its future manned lunar landing since its long-term goal is to colonize the moon and use it as a vast supply of energy."
Video: #China's Chang'e-4 makes historic landing on moon's far side https://t.co/OckokVjnh8 pic.twitter.com/x3YferTF1o — CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) January 3, 2019