STORY: China landed an uncrewed spacecraft on the far side of the moon on Sunday (June 2).

The successful mission elevates China’s space power status in a global rush to the moon.

And puts it a step closer to retrieving the world’s first rock and soil samples from the dark lunar hemisphere.

Countries, including the United States, are hoping to exploit lunar minerals to sustain long-term astronaut missions and moon bases within the next decade.

The landing is China’s second on the far side of the moon – a region no other country has reached.

If all goes as planned, the Chang’e-6 craft’s mission will provide China with a pristine record of the moon’s 4.5 billion-year history, and yield new clues on the solar system’s formation.

It will also allow for an unprecedented comparison between the dark, unexplored region with the moon’s better understood Earth-facing side.

The side of the moon perpetually facing away from the Earth is dotted with deep, dark craters, making communications and robotic landing operations more difficult.

Chang’e-6 marks the world’s third lunar landing this year.