China has kicked off the New Year by becoming the first nation to ever successfully land a probe on the far side of the moon.
Every morning as we scroll through some of the latest news stories, we feel as if a new barrier in space exploration has been broken. That is in no way a complaint. It's a very exciting time to be alive. We are sending probes, and sometime soon perhaps even people, to far away planets, and just this week literally sent a human-made object further than ever before.
That's all well and good, but there are actually places a little closer to home that remain unexplored. For example, did you know that humans have never managed to successfully land anything on the far side of the moon? Well, that is technically no longer true. That's because China's National Space Administration, the Chinese equivalent of NASA, achieved that first on January 3, 2019.
The news was officially broken Chinese state media a short while after it was posted and then deleted on social media. At first, people who saw the posts speculated that something had gone wrong. However, it seems that those in charge of the social media accounts were just a little over-eager. The spacecraft is called Chang'e 4 and you can check out one of the images it has taken below.
What we were initially surprised by is how well lit the far side of the moon is. That's because, as pointed out by CNN, it is not as dark as most assumed. Even though it never faces Earth so we assume it to always be dark, the half of the moon we never see actually gets as much sunlight as the Earth-facing side. We can now see that for ourselves thanks to Chang'e 4.
While China's ventures into space continue to ramp up, NASA's continue to slow down due to budgetary restraints. Next on the agenda for CNSA is a mission to Mars, something it hopes to have initiated by 2020. The nation also hopes to have its very own space station by the year 2022. A new space race is well and truly underway, and China may soon be leading the way.