China plans to visit the dark side of the moon in 2018

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The dark side of the moon hasn't been extensively explored by humans yet (hence the name), and China aims to do so in 2018. The country's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) announced plans Thursday that include landing the first probe in the area. That spacecraft, the Chang'e-4, is similar to the Chang'e-3 that delivered the Jade Rabbit rover to the moon in 2013, but carries a larger payload. In early 2014, the rover was no longer able to move despite its instruments still functioning.

The Chinese government is hoping to get help from private companies for its lunar exploration efforts too, rather than only using government resources. China is already working on the Chang'e-5 as well, a spacecraft that'll be used to complete a three-step lunar program with the goals of orbiting, landing and returning from the moon. Once it arrives, the Chang'e-4 will gather data on the geological conditions in an area of the moon we know little about. Advancing its space program has been a top priority for the country, and the 2018 mission should do just that.

[Image credit: CNSA/CLEP/CAS]