China probe makes historic touchdown on far side of the moon

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The far side of the moon is relatively unexplored and communication is hard because it always points away from Earth and signals could be blocked.

A Chinese space probe successfully touched down on the far side of the moon on Thursday, state media said, hailing it as a historic first landing there on a mission seen as an important step for China's space programme. The world's first image of the far side of the Moon was captured on 7 October 1959, by the Luna-3 Soviet station, but until today, no spacecraft from Earth has ever reached it.

The official China Central Television said the lunar explorer Chang'e 4 had touched down at 10:26 a.m.

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.

Because the far side faces away from Earth, it is also shielded from radio transmissions - making it the flawless place from which to study the universe.

The blast-off marked the start of a long journey to the far side of the moon for the Chang'e-4 mission.

The report goes on to quote China National Space Administration as saying that the major part of operation objectives of Chang'e 4 would be studying the terrain, astronomical observation, assessing the mineral composition and taking stock of neutron radiation and neutral atoms in an effort to understand the environment of this part of the Moon.

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

The move marks a global first that boosts Beijing's ambitions to become a space superpower, state media said.

Yutu also conquered those challenges and, after initial setbacks, ultimately surveyed the moon's surface for 31 months.

China plans to send its Chang-e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples - the first time that will have been done since 1976.

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