Roughly 10 years later, it was American astronauts putting the first boot prints on the Moon's dusty surface.
Watch below as NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter presents us with a full view of the near side and far side of the Moon.
The landing was "a big deal" because it used an engineering technique of the spacecraft itself choosing a safe place to touch down in treacherous terrain, something called autonomous hazard avoidance, said Purdue University lunar and planetary scientist Jay Melosh.
A photo taken by the lunar explorer Chang'e 4 at 11:40 a.m. and published online by the official Xinhua News Agency shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the probe.
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"Building a space power is a dream that we persistently pursue", said Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the China Lunar Exploration Project, speaking with CCTV at the Beijing Aerospace Flight and Control Center.
The Chinese authorities are hoping for a more useful visit to our natural satellite, using the experience gained from the 2014 Chang'e 3 lander and its Jade Rabbit rover. State media reported the rover transmitted back the world's first close-range image of the far side of the moon. Situated about 1.5 million km away, beyond the Moon's orbit, and on the far side of Earth from the Sun, this provides Queqiao with an excellent vantage point to act as a communications relay from the far side of the Moon back to Earth.
The robotic craft reportedly touched down in the South Pole-Aitken basin at 10.26am CST.
Chang'e-4 is carrying the Yutu-2 rover, which it deployed shortly after landing, at 7:22 a.m. ET, Jan 3, 2019 (6:22 p.m. Beijing time). But it will be up to the third and final phase of China's lunar exploration program, which will collect and return lunar samples, to determine the age and composition of such materials. Previous missions to the earth-facing side of the lunar surface by the ESA and India have been described as "controlled crashes". Media outlet China Daily later confirmed the success of the mission when it announced on Twitter that, "China's Chang'e 4 landed on the moon's far side, inaugurating a new chapter in mankind's lunar exploration history". China launched a radio-relay satellite to orbit the moon prior to Chang'e 4's mission to enable the spacecraft to communicate with the earth. Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia contributed payloads that will measure radiation and use low-frequency radio astronomy to listen for faint signals lingering in the cosmos since the formation of the universe's first stars, among other things.