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 program.
The ambitious mission also signals China's intention to become a global power in space exploration, with Chang'e 3 having in 2013 become the first probe to make a moon landing since the then-Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976. Beijing is pouring billions into the military-run programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon. China's space agency was quick to post new photos snapped from the lander, declaring the touchdown and deployment of its lunar rover a success.
One challenge of operating on the far side of the moon is communicating with Earth.
Chang'e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from overseas, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the far side. The 2011 Wolf Amendment to NASA's appropriation bill effectively bars the USA space agency from collaborating with China.
It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the moon's mysterious and heavily cratered "dark side". The surface of the landing site that China chose is surprisingly smooth compared to images we have seen of the landing site NASA chose for its first moon mission. That didn't stop the country from launching in 2011 its own space laboratory, named Tiangong ("Heavenly Palace"), which orbited Earth until last April. It landed in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin at 177.6 degrees east longitude and 45.5 degrees south latitude.
However, while China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, United States officials have accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.
The Chang'e-4 probe which has already sent back its first close-up pictures from the surface is carrying instruments to analyse the unexplored region's geology and will conduct biological experiments.
China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, becoming only the third country to do so after Russian Federation and the U.S. It has put a pair of space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s.