China claims to have landed spacecraft in unexplored side of Moon

An image of the rover for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe

An image of the rover for China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe Credit Xinhua Barcroft Images

It carries a number of high-end equipment which have been designed and manufactured to study and record the geology of Moon's far side that has so far not been explored.

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.

Photo taken by the landform camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander on December 16, 2013 shows the Yutu moon rover during Chang'e-3 lunar probe mission's first lunar day circle.

Unlike the near side of the moon that offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged.

The Chang'e-4 probe landed at 10.26am Beijing time and sent a photo of the far side of the moon to the Queqiao satellite, which will relay communications to controllers on Earth, state broadcaster CCTV said.

The Chinese probe had been circling the Moon in an elliptical orbit in preparation for landing since Sunday.

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China, which is investing billions in its military-run space programme, has previously said it hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022.

The moon is "tidally locked" to Earth in its rotation so the same side is always facing Earth.

Karl Bergquist, the European Space Agency's worldwide relations administrator, is quoted by China Daily as saying that the Chang'e-4 mission is scientifically and technologically "very impressive" because "no one has ever done it, this mission will therefore advance our knowledge of the moon".

No lander or rover has ever touched the surface there, positioning China as the first nation to explore the area. The rover will also test minerals and radiation.

During the lunar day, also lasting 14 Earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127 C (261 F).

China aims to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. Chang'e 5 will include a lunar lander and a rover that could return to Earth after collecting samples and performing lunar surveys.

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