We have a touchdown:
China successfully landed the Chang’e 4 spacecraft on the far side of the moon on Thursday morning, Beijing time, according to state news agency Xinhua, becoming the first in history to touch the lunar surface unseen by those on Earth.
The Chang’e 4 mission launched in early December. It took the spacecraft three days to travel to the moon, where it spent the last few weeks in orbit preparing for touch down on the Von Karman crater. The crater is a relatively flat spot on the moon’s far side.
“China’s Chang’e-4 probe softlands on Moon’s far side,” the state news agency tweeted on Thursday.
Landing on the far side is a technical challenge, as there is no direct way to communicate with the spacecraft as it nears its target. China put a relay satellite in orbit around the moon in May to overcome that communication challenge.
The far side of the moon has been seen and mapped before, even by astronauts of the Apollo missions. But the successful landing of Chang’e 4 represents the first time any spacecraft has touched down on the moon’s far side.