On Wednesday night (Jan. 2), the Chang'e 4 rover and its stationary-lander companion pulled off the first-ever soft touchdown on the lunar far side, coming to a rest inside the 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) Von Kármán Crater. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side, but none has landed on it.
It is the second Chinese spacecraft to land on the only natural satellite of our planet, following the Yutu rover mission in 2013.
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"As long as we keep it clean of radio interference, the far side of the moon is very good for radio astronomy", he said.
Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project, told CCTV it was "a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation", according to the AP.
The probe also took six live species - cotton, rapeseed, potato, arabidopsis, fruit fly and yeast - to the lifeless environment to form a mini biosphere, Xinhua said. Both China's space community and public have taken pride in the accomplishment, with some drawing comparisons to the United States. Beijing plans to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.
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Nevertheless, this is a significant step in China's bid to become a leading power in space exploration, alongside the United States and Russian Federation.
But the private space race is also heating up, as numerous companies aim to commercialize space travel, such as California-based SpaceX, which has upended the industry with its low-priced reusable Falcon 9 rockets.
Zhu Menghua, a professor at Macau University of Science and Technology who worked with Beijing on the mission, said the mission's success is a major milestone for the country and establishes it as a pioneer in space exploration. Since the moon blocks direct communications, China had to first put a satellite in orbit to relay signals.
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