China's Chang'e-4 Lands on Moon's Far Side, Snaps First Image

An artist's impression of the moon lander for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe

An artist's impression of the moon lander for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe Credit Barcroft Images

After Chang'e 4 safely touched down, the lander's cameras sent back this image of the Von Karman crater that its rover will now explore.

The images were sent via the relay satellite Queqiao, created to allow radio communication between the far side of the moon and Earth without it being blocked by the near hemisphere.

It's the first time someone has landed on the 'dark side of the moon, ' which faces away from Earth and is therefore not visible from its surface.

To overcome the problem, the China National Space Administration launched the Queqiiao relay satellite, last May to assist with the relay exchange between Earth and the Chang'e-4 probe.

In 2013, the predecessor spacecraft Chang'e 3 made the first moon landing since the former Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976.

The mission of Chang'e 4, which is carrying a rover, includes carrying out low-frequency radio astronomical observations and probing the structure and mineral composition of the terrain.

China aims to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.

"I think this is very good evidence that we are now able to compete with the Americans", said energy company employee Yao Dajun. The Communist controlled Global Times also said the probe had "successfully made the first-ever soft landing" on the far side of the moon.

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The far side of the moon is still a relative mystery and communication is hard because it always points away from Earth and this means signals can be blocked.

The spacecraft, which blasted off into the heavens on December 7, was in an elliptical orbit around the Moon, swinging within 15 kilometres (nine miles) of the lunar regolith.

The moon orbits Earth at the same speed at which it rotates around its axis.

The separation of the rover - which is named after the moon goddess' pet white rabbit - went smoothly, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar project. China was only the third country, after Russian Federation and the US, to conduct a crewed mission.

The six-wheeled spacecraft will help scientists study the Moon's mysterious "dark side", how its surface interacts with solar wind, and perhaps the process behind the formation of lunar water.

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface of the far side of the moon, and it is no easy technological feat.

"China has never said it is in a space race with the U.S., and has no such intention", said Professor Wang Xiangsui, director of the Research Centre of Strategic Issues at Beihang University.

One difficulty of operating on the far side of the moon is communicating with Earth.

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