It’s a space feat no nation has accomplished until now: China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft has successfully landed on the far side of the Moon! Chinese state media announced the combination lander-rover touched down at 10:26 Beijing time on 3 January 2019 (02:26 UTC, 22:26 EST 2 January).
The targeted landing site was Von Kármán crater:
Yuqi Qian of China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) reports the landing site as 177.6°E, 45.5°S via the Lunar Listserv— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) January 3, 2019
Von Kármán crater is located within the South Pole-Aitken basin, where an ancient lunar impact may have exposed the Moon’s mantle. By studying this region directly, Chang’e-4 will learn more about the early solar system and Earth.
In addition to its value as a scientific exploration target, the Moon’s quiet, airless far side makes it one of the best places in the inner solar system for science applications like radio astronomy. But since the far side never faces Earth, missions there require a relay satellite. China solved that problem by launching the Queqiao relay satellite in May 2018.
Chang’e-4 itself launched on 8 December 2018. It entered lunar orbit four days later, where mission controllers spent 22 days testing the spacecraft’s systems, waiting for the Sun to rise at the landing site. Today, Chang’e-4 successfully de-orbited and landed. One of its first tasks will be to deploy a rover similar to Yutu, which accompanied Chang’e-3 to the Moon in 2013.
The Queqiao relay satellite also brought along two SmallSats named Longjiang-1 and 2 bound for lunar orbit. Only Longjiang-2 was successful, and has sent home some phenomenal pictures, including a new Earthrise image.