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

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China's Chang'e-4 probe has released its rover Yutu 2 to explore the far side of the moon after making the historic touchdown on the moon's uncharted side on Thursday.

The transfer mechanism unlocked as planned, with one side reaching the Moon's surface, allowing the rover to descend onto the surface from the slope. The next step is for China to build its own space station next year, with the hope of having it operative as early as 2022.

After the successful landing, experts verified the conditions of "Queqiao", meaning Magpie Bridge, which was launched in May of 2018 to set up the communication link between the Earth and the moon's far side. Spacecraft have taken pictures of the moon's far side before - a Soviet satellite took the first photographs of the far side in 1959, and the Apollo missions circled above it between 1968 and 1972 - but no lander has ever landed there.

Because the moon is tidally locked with Earth, the same half always faces Earth.

Unlike the near side of the moon, which offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged. With Chang'e 4 mission, China becomes the first country to ever successfully reach the far side of the moon.

As 2019 dawns the separate preoccupations of the United States and China sound a bit like tracks from a Pink Floyd album: while Americans obsess over building "The Wall", the Chinese have landed a robot on "The Dark Side of the Moon".

With no direct way to communicate with the spacecraft from the moon, China put a relay satellite in orbit around the moon in May.

During the lunar day, also lasting 14 Earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127 C (261 F). Taken by a camera on board the lander, this image is from the landing site inside Von Karman crater. Yutu-2 will enter a "napping" mode at an appropriate time and is expected to resume moving next Thursday. Its success provided a major boost to China's space program. China last year launched more rockets into space than any other nation and plans another moon landing, the Chang-e 5, later this year.

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