The Chinese state news agency Xinhua has announced that the country's space agency plans to land a probe on the dark side of the Moon in two years' time — a feat that would mark a first for mankind. China is readying a new craft called Chang'e-4 for the mission, writes Reuters, which is planned to study the geological conditions on the as-yet unexplored far side of the Moon. The Xinhua news agency claims that the launch will take place in 2018.
China successfully took its first lunar lander, Chang'e 3, to the Moon two years ago. The findings from its Yutu rover, published last month, demonstrated that the Moon's history is far more complex than we realised.
Chnag'e 4 will be similar to its predecessor, though it's planned to carry a larger payload. Like its older sibling, it will be designed to make a soft landing on the Moon. It should provide huge insights about the geology of our nearest neighbour, especially about the thicker crust that we know exists on its far side.
To date, the dark side of the Moon has only ever been photographed, never physically explored. If all goes to plan, that could change very soon.
Image by AP