Chinese rover 'Jade Rabbit' drives on far side of the moon

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Declaring that it has opened a new chapter in lunar exploration, the China National Space Administration announced late Monday night that its Chang'e-4 lander had safely set down on the far side of the Moon.

China's Chang'e-4 lunar probe is expected to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon.

Xinhua, a state-run news agency, reports that the China National Space Administration's Chang'e-4 touched down on the moon's surface at 10:26 a.m., Beijing time, on January 3, 2019. "This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!"

For now, it plans to send a Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples - also not done since the Soviet mission in 1976.

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TRT World spoke to Associate Professor of Astrophysics at Keele University Jacco van Loon.

The mission is part of China's ambitious push to explore the Moon's resources and potential as a space base.

In 1959, the Soviet probe Luna 3 was the first to snap photographs of the lunar far side, with its 18 photographs revealing one-third of the moon's surface invisible from Earth.

The images show Chang'e-4's work site, as the probe begins its mission to study the mineral composition and measure radiation in the region.

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The Chinese lunar probe, including a lander and a rover, was launched on 8 December by a Long March-3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

On Jan. 3, the Chang'e 4 spacecraft, which includes a rover, performed a soft landing in the moon's Von Karman crater. The exploration could shed new light on the origin of the moon.

The unmanned lunar missions are part of China's ambitions to join the United States and Russian Federation as a major space power.

Nearly twelve hours later the China Lunar Exploration Project (CLEP) announced that the rover had descended from atop the lander at 14:22 UTC. The first man-made object to hit the far side was NASA's Ranger 4 craft in 1964, which crashed after a system failure. "There are many who worry that the Chinese will put a man on the moon before we're able to do it again", Chang said. The mission harbored some risk, because operators on Earth can not directly communicate with spacecraft on the moon's far side. Chang'e-4 will examine this mysterious area of the Moon.

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China, which is investing billions in its military-run space programme, has previously said it hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022.