A Chinese space probe successfully touched down on the far side of the moon on Thursday, China’s space agency said, hailing the event as a historic first and a major achievement for the country’s space programme.
The Chang’e-4 lunar probe, launched in December, made the “soft landing” at 0226 GMT and transmitted the first-ever “close range” image of the far side of the moon, the China National Space Administration said.
The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate as it orbits our planet, so most of the far side – or “dark side” – is never visible to us. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side, but none has landed on it.
The landing “lifted the mysterious veil” of the far side of the moon and “opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration”, the agency said in a statement on its website, which included a wide-angle colour picture of a crater from the moon’s surface. …
The United States is the only country to have landed humans on the moon, and Trump said in 2017 he wanted to return astronauts to the lunar surface to build a foundation for an eventual Mars mission. …
As soon as 2022, NASA expects to begin building a new space station laboratory to orbit the moon, as a pit stop for missions to distant parts of the solar system.
In 2003, China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States, and in 2017 it said it was preparing to send a person to the moon.
In time, America’s return to the Moon in the next 15 years might be seen as consequential an achievement as Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the lunar surface, because it will likely signal our first permanent human settlement beyond earth.