China launches Chang'e-4 lunar probe

China says it has launched first-ever lunar probe to land on far side of the moon

The Long March-3B rocket carrying Chang'e 4 lunar probe takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China on Saturday | Stringer Reuters

Space.com reports that the Chang'e 4 spacecraft was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center atop a Long March 3B rocket at about 1:23 p.m. EST Friday.

Chang'e 4 is also a lander-rover combination and will explore both above and below the lunar surface after arriving at the South Pole-Aitken basin's Von Karman crater following a 27-day journey. It's mission will be to explore the composition of the lunar surface.

Scientists will study the data it collects in order to see how it compares to samples from the near side of the Moon.

With its Chang'e 4 mission, China hopes to be the first country to make a soft landing, which is a landing of a spacecraft during which no serious damage is incurred.

Since the Moon spins around the same center of rotation as Earth, it's always facing away from us.

The Soviet Union was the first nation to shed light on the moon's dark side when it captured the first images of its surface in 1959, exposing a mountainous and craggy geography radically different from the more familiar half.

This article was originally published by Futurism.

To overcome that, a satellite was blasted into the moon's orbit in May, to act as a link between the lander and Earth.

There will also be mineral and radiation tests, the Xinhua news agency said.

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.

During the lunar night - which lasts 14 earth days - temperatures will drop as low as minus 173 degrees Celsius (minus 279 Fahrenheit).

Instruments must withstand those fluctuations and generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night.

If successful, the mission would propel the Chinese space program to a leading position in one of the most important areas of lunar exploration.

It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.

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

The project, he said in an interview with local website Netease, "greatly inspires everyone's national pride and self-confidence".

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