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China Makes First Landing On The Dark Side Of The Moon

A Chinese space probe has successfully touched down on the far side of the moon, the nation's space agency says, hailing the event as a historic first.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe, launched in December, made the "soft landing" on Thursday and transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the dark side of the moon, the China National Space Administration said.

The moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate as it orbits our planet, so its far side -- or "dark side" -- is never visible to us.

Previous spacecraft have seen the far side, but none have landed on it.

The first image of the moon's far side taken by China's Chang'e-4 probe. Image: AAP

The landing "lifted the mysterious veil" of the far side of the moon and "opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration", the agency said in a statement on its website, which included a wide-angle colour picture of a crater from the moon's surface.

The probe, which has a lander and a rover, touched down at a targeted area near the moon's south pole in the Von Karman Crater after entering the moon's orbit in mid-December.

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The tasks of the Chang'e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon's terrain, landform and mineral makeup, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment of its far side.

A handout photo from the Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center of China National Space Administration, showing an artist impression of the rover. Image: AAP

The landing is a milestone for China in its race to catch up with Russia and the United States and become a major space power by 2030. Beijing plans to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.

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.

China completed its first lunar "soft landing" in 2013, but its "Jade Rabbit" rover began malfunctioning after several weeks.