While you’ve been watching Ultima Thule, China has landed a spacecraft on the far side on the moon in what is a giant leap for its space program.
State media reported that the China National Space Administration soft-landed its Chang’e-4 lander and rover in the Von Kármán crater on Thursday at 10:26 a.m. Beijing time (9:26 p.m. ET).
It’s the first time someone has landed on the ‘dark side of the moon,’ which faces away from Earth and is therefore not visible from its surface.
The probe also sent back a photo of the moon’s far side via the Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) relay satellite, which was launched last May to help the space agency maintain communication with the rover.
Launched on Dec. 3, the Chang’e-4 is “now expected to study the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure of the moon’s far side, as well as perform low-frequency radio astronomical observation,” according to the state-owned China Global Television Network.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the effort on Twitter. “This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment,” he wrote.
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