China begins first surface exploration of moon's far side

The launch of Chang'e 4 lunar probe

The launch of Chang'e 4 lunar probe

China has released photos of its lunar rover leaving track marks on the far side of the moon after the country's historic landing.

China's lunar rover has left the first-ever "footprint" on the far side of the moon, officials said Friday, hours after the robotic spacecraft successfully soft-landed on the mysterious and previously unexplored region of the Earth's satellite.

A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the moon on Thursday, in a global first that boosts Beijing's ambitions to become a space superpower.

As China's space agency CNSA explains in a new post on its website, the Chang'e 4 lander arrived on schedule on the Moon's surface and quickly deployed the Yutu rover.

Chang'e 3: First unmanned Moon landing of the Chang'e effort.

Chang'e 4 will make astronomical observations and examine the structure and mineral composition of the ground above and below the surface.

China's mission is to learn more about the little-understood region of the moon, as well as to compete with the U.S. and Russian Federation as a powerhouse of space exploration.

Fitted with cameras, ground-penetrating radar and other tools, Chang'e-4 was created to help scientists answer lingering questions about our moon's geologic past.

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It would also like to develop a moon base through several manned missions and plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year, which it hopes will return to Earth with samples. The far side can't be seen from Earth and is popularly called the "dark side" by some because it is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight. The Chang'e lunar mission is named after the Chinese moon goddess.

If the mission is successful, scientists will have the opportunity to explore Moon's environment, which will be a great leap forward not only for China, but for the whole world.

"Building a space power is a dream that we persistently pursue", said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the China Lunar Exploration Project, speaking with CCTV at the Beijing Aerospace Flight and Control Center.

The surface is called the far side because it never faces Earth.

It is not the first time the system has been deployed to take sharp photos of the moon's surface: It was first used in 2013 on the Chang'e-3, which landed on the moon's Mare Imbrium crater.

The images are highly significant as they provide documented footage of the Moon's so-called "dark side".

What is the "far side of the Moon"?

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