China has become the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
State media reported that the unmanned Chang'e-4 probe touched down this morning at 10:26am Beijing time (2:26am Irish time).
It made a 'soft landing' in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, on the side of the moon that never faces Earth.
China's People's Daily newspaper said the probe "sent back the first-ever photograph of the moon's far side, opening a new chapter in lunar exploration".
The photos have been released by Chinese authorities:
Picture by: Xinhua/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine was among those who congratulated China's National Space Administration (CNSA) on the accomplishment.
Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment! pic.twitter.com/JfcBVsjRC8
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) January 3, 2019
The probe left Earth on December 8th, and entered lunar orbit four days later.
The mission has a number of objectives - including to study lunar rocks on the far side of the moon, and to measure lunar surface temperature.
Today's successful landing marks a significant accomplishment for China's burgeoning space programme.
Dr Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute speculated that the next step could be a manned mission to the moon by Chinese astronauts.
If this mission is successful, I'd not be surprised if the next step is an announcement - perhaps by 2022 - for Chinese Taikonauts to the lunar surface by 2030. The Chinese are putting all the components in place for crewed lunar missions.
— Dr. Malcolm Davis (@Dr_M_Davis) January 3, 2019