BEIJING — China’s burgeoning space program achieved a first on Thursday: a landing on the so-called dark side of the moon.
Three nations — the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China — have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, which faces Earth, but this landing is the first-ever on the far side.
The China National Space Administration said the 10:26 a.m. touchdown of the Chang’e 4 craft has “opened up a new chapter in human lunar exploration.”
A photo taken at 11:40 a.m. and sent back by Chang’e 4 shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the lunar explorer. Its name comes from that of a Chinese goddess who, according to legend, has lived on the moon for millennia.
The landing highlights China’s growing ambitions to rival the US, Russia and Europe in space and more broadly, to cement the nation’s position as a regional and global power