The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has been able to land a lunar probe on the far side of the moon successfully. It transmitted the first ever up-close image of the hidden half.
The moon is tidally locked to the Earth and rotates at the same rate as it orbits our planet. It means that we never see most of the so-called dark side. While some previous spacecraft have seen the far side, none have ever landed on it.
The lunar probe is named Chang’e 4. It is set to explore a targeted area near the south pole of the moon in the Von Karman Crater using a rover. The CSNA said that the landing is “a new chapter in human lunar exploration,” thus lifting the “mysterious veil” on the other side of the moon.
Its missions will include surveying the terrain of the moon, astronomical observation, landform and mineral makeup, and measuring the neutral atoms and neutron radiation to be able to study the environment of its far side.
The exploration took six live species up with it to the moon so that they can make a mini biosphere, including rapeseed, cotton, Arabidopsis, potato, yeast, and fruit fly.
The landing marks the most recent step by China in catching up to its rivals in the United States and Russia, in the space race, as Beijing is hoping to become a major space power by 2030. China is only the third country that was able to launch an astronaut into space in 2003, trailing some decades behind its US and then-Soviet counterparts.
The United States remains to be the only country to have landed humans on the moon, and US President Donald Trump has committed himself to the return of astronauts there as part of building a foundation for a future mission in Mars.
The news comes as the private space race also intensifies, as firms such as the Blue Origin of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and the Space X of Elon Musk battle it out for multi-billion-dollar commercial contracts.
The Virgin Galactic space tourism venture of Richard Branson has been able to successfully reached the edge of the atmosphere of the world for the first time in its fourth test flight across the United States last December.