China prepares to go for the far aspect of the Moon

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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.

Dark or not, exploring the far side of the moon comes with its own challenges.

Unlike the near-side of the moon that is "tidally locked" and always faces the earth, and offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far-side is mountainous and rugged.

The Chang'e-4 mission also includes contributions by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia. The United States' Apollo 8 mission sent three astronauts to fly around the moon in 1968, including around its far side. It demonstrates the competitiveness of the country's space programme on the worldwide scene.

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While other spacecraft have previously explored the far side of the moon from afar, the soft-landing will allow for more detailed study of the lunar surface.

This article was originally published by Futurism.

In 2013 China became just the third country, after the USA and the then-Soviet Union, to successfully "soft land" on the Moon when its Chang'e 3 lander reached the lunar surface. Here, the satellite will be able to constantly transmit communications between mission controllers on Earth and the lander-rover on the lunar surface.

In orbit, the relay satellite can "see" both the earth and the far side of the moon. The Chang'e 3 mission marked first soft-landing by a spacecraft on the moon in almost four decades.

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The mission will explore the composition of the Moon's largest impact crater, called the Von Kármán crater, which is 115 miles across (186 kilometres).

China started sending robotic probes to the moon in 2007 and has carried out several lunar missions since then. The scientific instruments on its lander are still operating, making Chang'e-3 the longest working man-made probe on the moon.

It's expected to land in early January after 26 days of flight, said China's Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. Its program also suffered a rare setback past year with the dialed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

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