A Chinese rocket is launched to the far side of the moon

Image source, Getty Images

China has launched a probe to collect samples from the far side of the moon, in what is described as the first of its kind in the world.

An unmanned rocket carrying the Chang'e-6 probe lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center at approximately 17:27 local time (10:27 GMT).

The 53-day mission aims to bring about two kilograms of lunar samples to Earth for analysis.

It will attempt to relaunch from the side of the moon facing Earth.

This is described as the dark side of the Moon because it is not visible from Earth, not because it does not receive sunlight.

It has a thicker, older crust with more craters, which is less covered by older lava flows on the near side.

Scientists hope this may make it possible to collect material that helps shed light on how the Moon formed.

“Chang'e-6 will collect samples from the far side of the Moon for the first time,” Ji Ping, deputy director of the China Lunar Exploration and Aerospace Engineering Center, told reporters before the launch.

The probe is named after the moon goddess and one of the most popular characters in Chinese mythology.

It is expected to land in the Antarctic-Aitken Basin, which is about 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) wide and up to 8 kilometers (5 miles) deep.

It then aims to collect lunar soil and rocks and conduct experiments.

Chang'e-7 will search the Moon's south pole for water, and Chang'e-8 will try to determine the technical feasibility of building a planned base, known as the International Lunar Research Station.

Friday's launch marks the latest stage in China's space exploration program that is competing with the United States.

Five years ago, China became the first country to land a rover on the far side of the moon.

By 2030, it aims to send its first astronauts to the moon, and send probes to collect samples from Mars and Jupiter.

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