Chang'e-4: Chinese rover now exploring Moon

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Chinese websites released several images captured during the lander's descent, and then revealed several more pictures taken of the mission's six-wheeled rover as it drove down a ramp and onto the lunar surface.

The rover touched the lunar surface at 10:22 pm (local time) on Thursday, leaving a trace on the soft, snow-like surface. For one thing, China's effort was the world's first mission to the surface of the moon's far side (which, as it turns out, isn't actually all that dark) and therefore posed unique technical challenges. When Earth views a darkened new moon, the far side is lit.

On Wednesday night (Jan. 2), the Chang'e 4 rover and its stationary-lander companion pulled off the first-ever soft touchdown on the lunar far side, coming to a rest inside the 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) Von Kármán Crater.

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The news cheered people on the streets of Beijing on Friday, many of whom said it showed that China can now achieve or even surpass what the United States has done.

"It's a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation", said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project. After receiving the order, Yutu-2, atop the probe, extended its solar panel, stretched out its mast and started to drive slowly to the transfer mechanism, said the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre.

China plans to send its Chang'e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples - the first time that will have been done since 1976.

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China is only the third country, alongside the US and Russian Federation, to send its own astronauts into space aboard its own rockets, and only the USA and China have the fiscal and technical wherewithal to mount significant long-term programs for exploring space.

In May, China launched Queqiao, a satellite that will help relay the rover's communication. It is popularly called the "dark side" because it can't be seen from Earth and is relatively unknown, not because it lacks sunlight. It can climb a 20-degree hill or an obstacle up to 20 centimeters (8 inches) tall.

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