In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, the Chang'e 4 lunar probe launches from the the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018.
China has launched a lunar probe that is heading toward the far side of the moon.
At 2:23 am (4.23am AEST), a Long March-3B rocket, carrying the probe including a lander and a rover, blasted off from the satellite launch center Xichang in southwest China, Xinhua said.
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.More news: Gov. Cooper orders flags fly half-staff in remembrance of George HW Bush
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.
The blast-off marked the start of a long journey to the far side of the moon for the Chang'e-4 mission, expected to land around the New Year to carry out experiments and survey the untrodden terrain.
A major challenge for such a mission is communicating with the robotic lander: as the far side of the moon always points away from earth, there is no direct "line of sight" for signals. It has a different composition than sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.
Friday's successful launch sent China's Chang'e-4 into orbit, scheduled to make an unprecedented touch down on the dark side of the moon in January of next year, Chinese state media reports.More news: Dragon Age 4 gets first teaser trailer at The Game Awards
Chang'e is the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.
China aims to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. The launch of a Mars rover is planned for the mid-2020s.
China's space program has benefited from cooperation with Russian Federation and European nations, although it was excluded from the 420-ton International Space Station, mainly due to US legislation barring such cooperation amid concerns over its strong military connections.More news: Tillerson: Trump 'undisciplined,' wanted to break law
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