China became the first nation to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, the country's state-run media announced Thursday, a milestone that solidifies Beijing's ambitions to become a world leader in space exploration.
The lunar explorer Chang'e 4 touched down at 10.26am Beijing time (2.26 GMT) according to China Central Television. The Communist party-owned Global Times also reported the probe had "successfully made the first-ever soft landing" on the far side of the moon.
In May, a relay satellite "Queqiao", or "Magpie Bridge", named after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang-e 4 and Earth.
The moon is "tidally locked" to Earth in its rotation so the same side is always facing Earth.
According to CLEP, China plans to launch a returnable spacecraft called Chang'e 5 by 2020, under the third and final phase of the plan.
An artistic representation of the Chang'e-4 rover on the far side of the lunar surface.
Success of the Chang'e 4 mission would mark the completion of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme (CLEP), one of 16 key technologies identified by the Chinese government.
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Chang'e 4 will therefore be able to characterize its surroundings in great detail, probing the composition of the surface as well as the layered structure of the ground beneath the lander's feet.
Then the probe landed in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.
Chang'e-4, which is carrying a rover that will explore the far side, has already sent images back to Earth. These would in turn produce carbon dioxide, helping the plants grow as a food source.
It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.
Yutu also conquered those challenges and, after initial setbacks, ultimately surveyed the moon's surface for 31 months.
Targeting the far side has turned this mission into a riskier and more complex venture than its predecessor, Chang'e-3 - which in 2013 touched down on the near side of the Moon, in the Mare Imbrium region.