China became the third country to land a probe on the Moon on Jan. 2. But, more importantly, it became the first to do so on the far side of the moon, often called the dark side. The ability to land on the far side of the moon is a technical achievement in its own right, one that neither Russia nor the United States has pursued.
The space race between the USA and Russia started with a beep from the Sputnik satellite exactly 60 years ago (October 4, 1957) and ended with a handshake in space just 18 years later. The handshake was the start of many decades of international collaboration in space. But over the past decade there has been a huge change.
In the late 1960s a good chunk of the world’s brightest minds and fanciest labs were devoted to one thing: space exploration. When NASA’s funding peaked in 1966 the organisation employed 400,000 people and consumed more than 4% of the US federal budget. Three years later, after less than a decade of serious investment, man was on the moon.