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China launches rover for first far side of the moon landing

08 December 2018

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.

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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.

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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.

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China launches rover for first far side of the moon landing