Chinese rover starts making tracks after landing on the moon

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Chinese rover starts making tracks after landing on the moon

The new probe will consist of an orbiter and a lander and is set to be China's first sample-return mission, aiming to bring at least 2 kilograms of lunar soil and rock samples back to Earth.

This is the very first time that any country has performed a soft landing or rover deployment on the far side of Earth's natural satellite, and it's a huge win for Chinese scientists who have been planning out this mission for years.

The Jade Rabbit 2 rover drove off a ramp and onto the moon at 2:22pm GMT on Thursday, about 12 hours after the Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down.

In this photo provided on January 3, 2019, by the China National Space Administration via Xinhua News Agency, an image taken by China's Chang'e-4 probe after its landing.

China's Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover operating on the Moon after landing in late 2013.

The images show Chang'e-4's work site, as the probe begins its mission to study the mineral composition and measure radiation in the region.

The mission highlights China's growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russian Federation and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement its position as a regional and global power.

Onboard Chang'e-4 is an experiment never attempted before. But it is often called the dark side because it faces away from Earth and little is known about it.

The ship was launched in early December and has been orbiting around the space mass for weeks in preparation for the "dark side" landing.

However, this only refers to the side of the moon being unseen on earth - it still receives sunlight.

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

In 2003, China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States, and in 2017 it said it was preparing to send a person to the moon. It also comes as tensions between the US and China heat up.

"And this marks one of the milestone events of building a strong space nation", chief designer for the lunar mission, Wu Weiren, told CCTV. As it hovered about 100m above the lunar surface, detectors looked for obstacles before settling on a flat area - the Von Karman crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the back of the Moon.

China has two space stations in orbit and plans to launch a Mars exploration vehicle in the mid-2020s.

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