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China is Heading to the Dark Side of the Moon

posted: 01/15/16
by: Danny Clemens
Moon in November 2013
serguei_30/Flickr

China is moving forward with plans to land a probe on the dark side of the moon, state news agency Xinhua reports.

On Thursday, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense's chief of the lunar exploration Liu Jizhong announced that the agency was planning to land the Chang'e-4 probe on the far side of the moon in 2018.

The agency is also open to cooperating with other international space programs to launch the mission.

Related: China Put a Telescope on the Moon in 2013

In May 2015, China's National Space Administration first announced its intention to explore the moon's dark side, promising to "choose a site on which it is more difficult to land and more technically challenging."

The dark side of the moon -- also known as the far side -- is never visible from Earth due to a phenomenon known as tidal locking. Tidal forces on Earth have slowed the moon's rotation to match the speed of its orbit, leaving the same half of the moon always facing Earth.

The dark side was first seen in 1959, when Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 sent back 17 low-quality photographs depicting the moon's mountainous terrain and craters.

To date, a spacecraft has never landed on the dark side.

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