This is the first to touch down on the side of the moon that perpetually faces away from the Earth. “This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration,” said Zhu Menghua, a professor at the Macau University of Science and Technology who has worked closely with China’s space administration. The crater where the Chinese landed is the oldest and deepest on the moon.
Some scientists suspect that the surrounding basin may be rich in minerals. The main lander will release a 300-pound rover that, barring mishap, will roam the crater. Scientists hope the rocks and dirt in the area will add to the understanding of the moon’s geology. The place the probe is exploring, Dr. Goswami said, could become a future refueling base for missions deeper into space. The lander will also conduct a biology experiment to see if plant seeds will germinate and silkworm eggs will hatch in the moon’s low gravity.China now plans to begin fully operating its third space station by 2022, to put astronauts in a lunar base by later in that decade. China is only the third country to send its own astronauts into space aboard its own rockets. In 2018, China launched more rockets into space than any other country, 38. Conquering space remains a national priority for this country.