China launches pioneering mission to far side of moon

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Chinese module to study moon's far side By Zhao Lei Saturday, December 08, 2018, 09:51 By Zhao Lei The Chang'e 4 robotic probe, the first artifact to touch down on the moon's far side, was lifted atop a Long March 3B carrier rocket at 2:23 am at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China's Sichuan province, Dec 8, 2018.

China launched the relay satellite "Queqiao", meaning Magpie Bridge, on May 21 to set up the communication link between the earth and the moon's far side.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making it only the third country after Russian Federation and the do so.

The probe, the Chang'e-4, is expected to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon, according to Xinhua.

The objective of the mission is to deliver samples of lunar soil to Earth.

"It is highly likely that with the success of Chang'e - and the concurrent success of the human spaceflight Shenzhou program - the two programs will eventually be combined toward a Chinese human spaceflight program to the Moon", she added.

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.

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China, which is investing billions in its military-run space programme, hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022.

Chang'e is the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.

Once on the moon's surface, the rover faces an array of extreme challenges.

China has promoted global 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. Three scientific and technological experiments will also be carried out.

Chang'e-2, launched in 2010, created a full lunar map with a resolution of 7 meters, as well as images of the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, with a resolution of 1.5 meters, showing the details of the proposed landing site of Chang'e-3.

In comparison, despite its recent success in sending a robotic lander to Mars, the U.S. space agency NASA has faced years of budgetary constraints. US President Donald Trump instructed his government a year ago to put a new space station into lunar orbit.