China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft lands on far side of the moon

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New photos from China's space agency show its lunar rover leaving tracks on the far side of the moon, at the start of a historic exploration mission.

While China is the first to land a spacecraft on the far side, there have been plenty of detailed photographs taken by orbiting spacecraft.

Three nations - the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China - have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, but the latest landing is the first on the far side.

"Although this was one small step for the rover, I think it is one big step for the Chinese people", he said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV, echoing the famous quote by USA astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon in 1969.

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The successful landing formally inaugurated the world's first expedition to the far side and is expected to fulfil scientists' long-held aspiration to closely observe the enormous region.

This handout picture taken by the Chang'e-4 probe and released by China National Space Administration on January 3, 2019 shows an image of the "dark side" of the moon.

China is only the third country, alongside the US and Russian Federation, to send its own astronauts into space aboard its own rockets, and only the USA and China have the fiscal and technical wherewithal to mount significant long-term programs for exploring space.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China on December 8, 2018, and entered orbit around the Moon five days later.

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China was the first to complete a "soft landing", without damage, on the far side of the moon.

The far side is often referred to as the "dark side" because it can not be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown.

The Yutu-2 rover has six wheels that all have power, so it can continue to operate even if one wheel fails. The vehicle can slant up to 20 degrees and overcome obstacles up to 20 centimeters in size.

"The surface is soft and it is similar that you are walking on the snow", Shen Zhenrong, the rover designer from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, said on CCTV.

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