China sends probe to get samples from less-explored far side of the Moon

China has launched a lunar probe to land on the far side of the Moon and return with samples that could provide insights into differences between the less-explored region and the better-known near side.

It is the latest advance in China’s increasingly sophisticated space exploration programme, which is now competing with the US, still the leader in space.

China already landed a rover on the Moon’s far side in 2019, the first country to do so. And it returned samples from the near side of the Moon in 2020, the first time anyone has done so since the 1970s.

China’s launch facility in Wenchang (Alamy/PA)

China also has a three-member crew on its own orbiting space station and aims to put astronauts on the Moon by 2030. Three Chinese lunar probe missions are planned over the next four years.

The rocket carrying the Chang’e-6 lunar probe lifted off on Friday from the Wenchang launch centre on the island province of Hainan.

After orbiting the Moon to reduce speed, the lander will separate from the returner.

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