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chang’e-4 mission

China has announced it successfully landed a robotic spacecraft on the far side of the Moon, the first ever such attempt and landing.

According to state media, at 10:26 Beijing time, the un-crewed Chang’e-4 probe touched down in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The Chang’e-4 probe is carrying instruments to analyze the unexplored region’s geology, as well to conduct biological experiments.

The landing is being seen as a major milestone in space exploration.

There have been numerous missions to the Moon in recent years, but the vast majority have been to orbit, fly by or impact. The last crewed landing was Apollo 17 in 1972.

The Chang’e-4 probe has already sent back its first pictures from the surface, which were shared by state media.

With no direct communication link possible, all pictures and data have to be bounced off a separate satellite before being relayed to Earth.

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Previous Moon missions have landed on the Earth-facing side, but this is the first time any craft has landed successfully on the unexplored and rugged far side.

Some spacecraft have crashed into the far side, either after system failures, or after they had completed their mission.

The Chang’e-4 was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China on December 7; it arrived in lunar orbit on December 12.

The mission was then directed to lower itself toward the Moon, being careful to identify and avoid obstacles, Chinese state media say.

The Chang’e-4 probe is aiming to explore a place called the Von Kármán crater, located within the much larger South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin – thought to have been formed by a giant impact early in the Moon’s history.