Chinese probe heads for far side of the moon

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The United States' Apollo 8 mission sent three astronauts to fly around the moon in 1968, including around its far side.

While the terrain on the near side of the moon has many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is rugged and mountainous.

"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.

Beijing plans to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbital and rover exploration, followed by a mission that would include collection of surface samples from the Red Planet. It also carries seeds as part of a "miniature biosphere" experiment to grow vegetables in the lunar soil. Upon arrival at our rocky satellite, an accompanying lander, which doubles as a rover, will descend towards the surface.

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the heavily cratered surface, uncloaking some of the mystery of the moon's "dark side". It is the world's first communication satellite operating in that orbit, according to CNSA.

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As a solution, China in May blasted the Queqiao ("Magpie Bridge") satellite into the moon's orbit, positioning it so that it can relay data and commands between the lander and earth.

A Chinese spacecraft is headed toward the moon on a historic mission. The scientific instruments on its lander are still operating, making Chang'e-3 the longest working man-made probe on the moon.

The launch of the spacecraft called Chang'e-4 was the next step China program.

China's space program has benefited from cooperation with Russian Federation and European nations, although it was excluded from the 420-ton International Space Station, mainly due to US legislation barring such cooperation amid concerns over its strong military connections.

Saturday's launch was the 294th mission of the Long March rocket series.