China's next big space mission: the far side of the moon

This year, China plans to boldly go where no superpower has previously been before — the far side of the moon.

In a bid to become the new world leader in lunar exploration, China will launch a pair of missions known collectively as Chang’e 4, The Guardian reports.

It is the fourth mission in a series named after the Chinese moon goddess.

By landing on the far side of the moon, China will outdo the historical achievements of the US and the USSR.

No one has ever attempted this kind of lunar landing before.

The moon rises over a building in Netanya, Israel, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. The Dec. 3 full moon is the first of three consecutive supermoons. The other two will occur on Jan. 1 and Jan. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

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“The Chinese are pushing back the frontier with such a technically challenging mission,” Brian Harvey, space analyst and author of China in Space: The Great Leap Forward, told The Guardian.

In June 2018, the first component of Chang’e 4 — a relay satellite — will lift off. The satellite will be stationed some 60,000 km behind the moon and will provide a communications link between Earth and the lunar far side.

Once this link is established, it will allow China to send the second part of the mission: a lander to the far side’s surface.

In 2013 Chang’e 3, deploying the Jade Rabbit rover, made headlines around the world for the first soft landing on the moon since 1976.

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