China lands first probe on the dark side of the moon

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Over about 12 dramatic minutes, China's Chang'e-4 probe descended and softly touched down on a crater on the far side of the moon on Thursday.

"We believe that it will be necessary and very meaningful to have samples back from the far side of the Moon", said Yang in an in interview with the China Global Television Network (CGTN).

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the moon's mysterious and heavily cratered "dark side".

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.

The United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, but the latest Chinese landing is the first on the far side.

The probe, which has a lander and a rover, will conduct surveys on terrain, mineral composition and other environmental qualities in collaboration with countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

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The Chinese lunar probe, including a lander and a rover, was launched on 8 December by a Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Chang'e-4 lunar probe mission - named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology - was the second Chinese probe to land on the moon following the Yutu rover mission in 2013.

China said in 2017 it was making preparations to send a person to the moon.

China's Chang'e 4 mission could use soil tests and temperature measurements to reveal new clues to the cataclysmic collision that created the moon and uncover the origins of the water that is unexpectedly abundant in lunar soil. But because the moon spins on its axis at exactly the same rate as it orbits Earth, one side remains permanently out of view.

No lander or rover has ever touched the surface there, positioning China as the first nation to explore the area. That mission was only a partial success, since the rover suffered serious problems and died less than two months on the Moon, although the lander is still operational.

Well it turns out that day was today, and the images taken by the spacecraft during its historic landing have been relayed via satellite back to the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and shared online for all the world to see. The first man-made object to hit the far side was NASA's Ranger 4 craft in 1964, which crashed after a system failure. Beijing plans to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.