China launches probe to explore dark side of Moon

It's Official: A Lander Is Headed to The Far Side of The Moon

China launched a rover early Saturday destined to land on the far side of the moon, a global first that would boost Beijing's ambitions to become a space superpower, state media said.

The biggest challenge will be establishing communication with the far side of the moon, which is unreachable by direct signal and invisible from Earth, said professor Ouyang Ziyuan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the chief scientist of the China Lunar Exploration Plan.

The Moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, so the far side is never visible from Earth.

If successful, the Chang-e 4 will unlock valuable clues to the mysteries about the moon and the universe.

It's also carrying a 3 kg (6.6 lb) container of seeds and silkworm larvae to study whether they can grow on the surface of the Moon - an experiment that could have long-term implications for a lunar colony.

The rover is expected to land around the New Year to carry out experiments and explore the untrodden terrain.

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Chang'e 4 is also a lander-rover combination and will explore both above and below the lunar surface after arriving at the South Pole-Aitken basin's Von Karman crater following a 27-day journey.

Since the Moon spins around the same center of rotation as Earth, it's always facing away from us.

China, which is investing billions in its military-run space programme, hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022. It has a different composition than sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Chang'e 4 lunar probe launches from the the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

During the lunar night - which lasts 14 earth days - temperatures will drop as low as minus 173C, while during the lunar day, also lasting 14 earth days, temperatures rocket as high as 127C.

The mission also demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russian Federation, the European Union and the U.S. It is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.

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