This move has been hailed as the major technical feat and is seen as a important step towards China’s wider ambitions in space. The robotic probe Chang’e 4 landed in the unexplored South Pole-Aitken basin, the biggest known impact structure in the solar system, at about 2.30am GMT on Thursday. Prior to confirmation of the landing and the release of the first close-up shots of the far lunar surface by the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, many details of the mission, including the planned timing of the landing, had been kept secret. The landing was described as “an impressive accomplishment” by Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Martin Wieser, a scientist at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and principal investigator on one of the instruments onboard Chang’e, said: “We know the far side from orbital images and satellites, but we don’t know it from the surface. It’s uncharted territory and that makes it very exciting.”