Now, being recognized as a galactic pioneer is once again part of China's national ambitions. Three nations - the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China - all have sent spacecraft to the side of the moon that faces Earth, but this landing is the first on the far side.
While China is the first to land a spacecraft on the far side, there have been plenty of detailed photographs taken by orbiting spacecraft. The 2011 Wolf Amendment to NASA's appropriation bill effectively bars the US space agency from collaborating with China. The goal for China is to have a lunar base established by 2025 and to have their own astronaut inside of it by 2030. But China is considering a crewed mission, as well.
Legend has it that Chang'e, after swallowing a magic pill, took her pet and flew toward the moon where she became a goddess and has lived with the white jade rabbit ever since.
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. The Chang'e-5 mission will have sample returns from the near side of the Moon.
The year 2020 promises to be a big one for China's space program. This is the logical outcome of a policy that wants to lead China in all areas of the world.
This may reinforce the concern of some lunar scientists and spaceflight experts, who warn that if we want to see the Moon developed under Western norms of freedom and openness, then NASA and USA businesses had better lead the return and development of the Moon during the coming decade.
FILE - In this June 10, 2017 file photo, visitors look at a model of China's Tiangong-1 space station at the China Beijing International High-Tech Expo in Beijing.
However, the moon spins much more slowly than Earth does, which means that a lunar day cycle lasts almost 709 hours or almost 30 terrestrial days, according to NASA.
A photo posted online by China's space agency showed tracks left by the rover as it headed away from the spacecraft.