BEIJING (Gray News) - The world reached a milestone in space exploration, as China’s space agency announced it landed a probe on the far side of the moon.
The spacecraft Chang’e-4, which is named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology, landed just before 10:30 a.m. Thursday Beijing time, according to the China National Space Administration.
The successful mission “has opened a new chapter in humanity’s exploration of the moon,” the space agency said in the announcement, as reported by The New York Times.
The probe sent back the first close-up image of the moon’s far side, the hemisphere that never faces Earth due to the moon’s rotation.
The rest of the mission will involve numerous experiments, including attempts to find water and to see if certain plants can grow in low gravity. It will also carry out astronomical observations and probes to determine the structure and mineral composition of the moon’s surface, according to the Associated Press.
Another moon landing, of the Chang’e-5, is planned for later this year. It is expected to return to Earth with samples, which the AP reports will be the first time that has been done since 1976.
China next plans to launch a Mars probe around 2020 and to have a fully operating space station by 2022, according to the Times.
China is only the third country, behind the United States and Russia, to have spacecrafts make moon landings.
The Chang’e-4 was launched early on the morning of Dec. 8 in southwestern China. In 2013, its predecessor, Chang’e-3, was the first Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon.