In this photo provided by China's official Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-4C rocket carrying a relay satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), is launched from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Monday, May 21, 2018.
China has launched a relay satellite as part of a groundbreaking program to land a probe on the far side of the moon this year. The China National Space Administration said on its website that the satellite lofted into space early Monday aboard a Long March-4C rocket will facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang'e 4 mission.(Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP)

Experts: China far side lunar mission potentially historic

May 22, 2018 - 1:08 am

BEIJING (AP) — Experts say China's ambition to soft-land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon later this year faces considerable challenges but if successful, would put its space program in the forefront of one of the most important areas of lunar exploration.

China hopes to be the first country to complete such a landing. On Monday, it launched a relay satellite to facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the upcoming Chang'e 4 mission.

The moon's far side, also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth, remains comparatively unknown.

Although China's space program is largely military-run, a number of Chinese commercial satellite launchers have also sprung up in recent years on the model, if not the scale, of private U.S. companies such as SpaceX.

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