China launches rover for first far side of the moon landing

A Long March-3B rocket carrying Chang'e 4 lunar probe takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province China December

A Long March-3B rocket carrying Chang'e 4 lunar probe takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province China December

The probe is expected to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon.

China has launched a ground-breaking mission to land an unmanned spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.

China's ambitious plans for moon exploration won't end with the probe: the country plans to land astronauts on the moon by 2030, which would mark the first time humans have set foot on the astrological body since the early 1970s.

The rover is expected to land around the New Year to carry out experiments and explore the untrodden terrain. China has promoted global cooperation in its lunar exploration program, with four scientific payloads in the Chang'e-4 mission developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

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The Chang´e-4 lunar probe mission - named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology - launched on a Long March 3B rocket from the southwestern Xichang launch centre at 2:23 am (1823 GMT), according to the official Xinhua news agency. The moon's far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown. The other face, most of which can not be seen from earth, is called the far side or dark side, not because it's dark, but because most of it remains unknown.

The Chang´e 4 mission is a step in that direction, significant for the engineering expertise needed to explore and settle the moon, McDowell said. Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the Moon, but none has landed on it.

China has promoted worldwide cooperation in its lunar exploration program, with four scientific payloads of the Chang'e-4 mission developed by scientists from Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

The tasks of the Chang'e-4 probe include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon, Xinhua quoted the China National Space Administration as saying.

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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.

However, landing and roving there requires a relay satellite to transmit signals.

To overcome that, a satellite was blasted into the moon's orbit in May, to act as a link between the lander and Earth.

Saturday's launch was the 294th mission of the Long March rocket series.

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