China's Chang'e-4 touching down on far side of the moon

In Chinese mythology, Chang'e is the name of a goddess who lived on the moon. The nation's space budget is about $8 billion a year, second only to the U.S. The moon landing comes at a time when tensions between the two powers are at a long-time high, with their economic, technological and military rivalry deepening amid China's quest for dominance. The landing on Thursday brought the country closer to its goal of becoming a space power.

As China's space agency CNSA explains in a new post on its website, the Chang'e 4 lander arrived on schedule on the Moon's surface and quickly deployed the Yutu rover.

This is the first time ever that anyone has landed a probe on the far side of the moon.

Fitted with cameras, ground-penetrating radar and other tools, Chang'e-4 was created to help scientists answer lingering questions about our moon's geologic past. "On Mars, you can pick out smooth areas".

It was only in 1959, when the first images of the far side were beamed back by the Soviet Union's Luna 3, that intriguing differences were revealed.

China's Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover operating on the Moon after landing in late 2013. The images of the rover are very clear despite being beamed back to Earth via a relay satellite from the moon.

Over the next few days the Chinese lunar lander will deploy an unmanned robotic surface rover similar to the U.S. Apollo program's "moon buggy" that will explore and take samples of the lunar surface. But it is often called the dark side because it faces away from Earth and little is known about it. Knowing the age and chemical composition of this crash zone would help understand Earth's ancient history better, said Purdue's Melosh.

Astronomers are also seeking a completely quiet electromagnetic environment to detect weak signals emitted from remote celestial bodies in deep space. The country's rover will study a basin more than 1,550 miles in diameter called the Von Kármán crater, and it'll carry a spectrometer that will enable it to perform low-frequency radio astronomy observations, as the moon blocks it from radio noise coming from Earth, according to the BBC.

Previous moon missions have mostly focused on the Earth-facing side of the moon.

Every semester, Purdue University lunar and planetary scientist Jay Melosh demonstrates how the far side gets light using a bright light as the sun and students playing the roles of the moon and the Earth. China builds already now an exclusive competition event to the worldwide space station, is mainly due to the Americans, who had rejected a few years ago a participation of China. It is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.

"It's a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation", Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China's Lunar Exploration Project, told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

Vanessa Coleman

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