Chang'e-4: Chinese rover now exploring Moon

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The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The moon was first visited by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in 1969, and the USA, the former Soviet Union, and China have all landed spacecraft on its surface in the years since. "And it is what our generation and the next generation are supposed to do", said Chang'e-4 chief designer Dr. Wu Weiren, of China National Space Administration (CNSA).

China's Chang'e-4 probe has released its rover Yutu 2 to explore the far side of the moon after making the historic touchdown on the moon's uncharted side on Thursday. It is popularly called the "dark side" because it can't be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight.

China, after the Soviet Union and the United States, is the third country that has managed to bring a vehicle to the moon, but it has become the first to do so on the invisible side of the Earth's satellite.

Previous moon landings, including America's six manned missions from 1969 to 1972, have been on the near side of the moon, which faces Earth.

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The Jade Rabbit 2 sent back a photo of the tracks it had left in the moon's soft, snow-like surface after a Chinese spacecraft successfully landed carrying the equipment. Yutu 2 has already put a fair bit of space between itself and the lander, trundling over near the rim of a small crater on the floor of Von Kármán, which itself lies within an even larger impact feature - the 1,550-mile-wide (2,500 km) South Pole-Aitken Basin.

"Congratulations to China's Chang'e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the moon", he posted on Twitter. The surface in the landing field is quite soft, said Shen Henong, who designed the vehicle.

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface there, and it is no easy technological feat - China has been preparing for this moment for years.

Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang'e 5, next year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.