Chinese spacecraft makes first landing on moon's far side

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The Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down at 10:26am local time, the official China Central Television said.

A Chinese spacecraft has become the first to land successfully on the far side of the moon, according to state media.

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

While past missions have been to the Earth-facing side, this is the first time a craft has landed on the unexplored far side.

Landing on the far side means that the Moon will separate the spacecraft from Earth, making it impossible for the probe to communicate directly with our planet.

The robotic probe, Chang'e 4, entered an elliptical path around the moon last weekend, drawing as close as 15km (9 miles) from the surface.

Because the far side faces away from Earth, it is also shielded from radio transmissions - making it the ideal place from which to study the universe.

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The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral composition, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon, the China National Space Administration has said.

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface there, and it is no easy technological feat - China has been preparing for this moment for years.

In May, a relay satellite "Queqiao", or "Magpie Bridge", named after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched to provide communications support between Chang-e 4 and Earth.

During the lunar day, also lasting 14 Earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127 C (261 F).

In addition to home-grown scientific equipment, the Chang'e 4 mission also involves four scientific payloads developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power.

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