The far side of the moon has long been a tantalizing mystery. But China, a latecomer to the lunar landing game, could soon make history as the first country to touch its surface.
Our moon is tidally locked to the Earth, which means we never get to see its opposite side. But there's a prevailing notion that the far side is perpetually shrouded in darkness. This is absolutely not true, as this visualization from NASA beautifully illustrates.
The side of the moon that faces Earth is familiar to anyone who's stood outside at night. But it wasn't until this day in 1959 that mankind was able to glimpse the dark side of the moon, thanks to a grainy-yet-distinct photo sent back by the Russian spacecraft Luna 3.
Exactly 54 years ago, the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 Probe opened its camera shutter and snapped the first pictures of the lunar far side — a sight that had eluded human eyes since the beginning of time.
If something about this animation strikes you as unfamiliar, don't worry, you're not imagining things; though the Moon does rotate about its axis as it orbits Earth, you've never in your life seen it spin quite like this.