Chinese spacecraft becomes the first to land on the far side of the Moon

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

China has released the first pictures ever seen of the surface of the far side of the Moon.

The images were sent back to Earth as Chinese state media announced its spacecraft had made the first-ever landing there.

The lunar explorer Chang’e 4 touched down at 10.26am Beijing time (2.26 GMT), according to China Central Television.

The far side of the moon – also known as the dark side of the Moon – faces away from Earth and is relatively unexplored.

The first image of the moon’s far side taken by China’s Chang’e-4 probe (AP)
An image taken by China’s Chang’e-4 probe during its landing process (AP)

Chang’e 4, which is carrying a rover, will carry out low-frequency radio astronomical observations and probing the structure and mineral composition of the terrain.

The Long March 3B rocket carrying Chang’e 4 blasted off on December 8 from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southern China.

China’s landing is regarded as a major step forward in space exploration, with images of the area bounced off a separate satellite before they are sent to Earth.

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The pioneering landing demonstrates China’s growing ambitions as a space power.

In 2013, Chang’e 3 was the first spacecraft to land on the Moon since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976.

A simulated landing process of Chang’e-4 lunar probe is seen through the monitor at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing (AP)
The Chang’e 4 lunar probe launches from the the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China’s Sichuan province (AP)

In May, a relay satellite ‘Queqiao,’ or ‘Magpie Bridge’, named after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang’e 4 and Earth.

China plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples – the first time that will have been done since 1976.