China's rover creates first 'footprint' on the far side of the moon

Chinese Chang'e 4 Relay Satellite

Chang'e 4 spacecraft lands on far side of the Moon in world first for China

The spacecraft decelerated and entered the lunar orbit on 12 December, completing a vital step on its way to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon. China's space agency was quick to post new photos snapped from the lander, declaring the touchdown and deployment of its lunar rover a success. Our moon has a nifty trick: It's tidally locked to Earth, which means that one half of the lunar surface always faces us, while the other half always faces away from us.

"We chose a vertical descent strategy to avoid the influence of the mountains on the flight track", said Zhang He, executive director of the Chang'e-4 probe project, from the China Academy of Space Technology.

The nation's space budget is about $8 billion a year, second only to the U.S. The moon landing comes at a time when tensions between the two powers are at a long-time high, with their economic, technological and military rivalry deepening amid China's quest for dominance.

In 2013, Chang-e 3 was the first spacecraft to land on the moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976. The United States is the only country to successfully send astronauts to the moon - 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing - although China is considering a crewed mission too.

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. "This probe can fill the gap of low-frequency observation in radio astronomy and will provide important information for studying the origin of stars and nebula evolution".

China's Chang'e 4 sent back the first ever photos of the moon's "dark side".

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.

To overcome that, a satellite named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) after an ancient Chinese folk tale was blasted into the moon's orbit in May, to act as a link between the lander and Earth.

The pioneering achievement is another demonstration of China's ambitions to be a space power.

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the heavily cratered surface, uncloaking some of the mystery of the moon's "dark side".

Riding aboard that lander was the Yutu-2 rover that has now rolled off its lander base for the first time.

There is much to explore on the far side of the moon.

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