A Chinese spacecraft has made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon.
The official China Central Television says the lunar explorer Chang’e 4 touched down early on Thursday.
The far side of the moon faces away from Earth and is relatively unexplored. It is also known as the dark side of the moon.
The landing of the probe, called Chang’e 4 after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology, solidifies the nation’s ambitions to lead the space race.
China landed another rover on the moon in 2013, joining the United States and the Soviet Union as the only nations to have carried out a “soft landing” there.
“This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration,” Zhu Menghua, a professor at the Macau University of Science and Technology who has worked closely with China’s space administration told The New York Times.
“We Chinese people have done something that the Americans have not dared try.”
Chang’e 4 is a lander-rover combination and will explore both above and below the lunar surface.
The ABC reports some of the experiments aboard will investigate the Moon’s potential to support future space travellers.
One of those experiments is a biosphere project, which includes silkworm eggs, thale cress and potato seeds.
If it goes to plan, the ecosystem would be self-sustaining, with the silkworms germinating the potatoes and popping out caterpillars. These would in turn produce carbon dioxide, helping the plants grow as a food source.
Because the far side faces away from Earth, it is also shielded from radio transmissions – making it the perfect place from which to study the universe.
The mission is part of China’s ambitious push to explore the Moon’s resources and potential as a space base.
China landed its Yutu, or ‘Jade Rabbit’ rover on the Moon five years ago and plans to have Chang’e 5 return to Earth with samples – the first time that will have been done since 1976.
-with AAP, ABC