04 January 2019
It’s never been done before, even by space-faring nations with decades of experience. But on 03 January, China became the first to land a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon. Although its fourth lunar mission marks a historic first, China’s space agency doesn’t usually target splashy goals.
“This is the first time, really, that they’ve struck out to do something very different and very new,” says Brian Harvey, author of “China in Space: The Great Leap Forward.” “There’s not a mad rush of missions or anything like that. They’re gradually building up a lot of expertise, a lot of knowledge so that they’re in a very strong position” to achieve ambitious goals in the future. China’s lunar programme, Mr. Harvey says, has methodically ticked off the sequence of achievements set out by the U.S. and the USSR during the original space race. Landing on the far side of the Moon was part of the USSR’s plan, too, but the Soviet Union never achieved that, and the U.S. didn’t make it a priority.