BEIJING – China launched the Chang’e 4 lunar probe on Saturday morning, state news agency Xinhua reported.
The Long March-3B rocket carrying the probe, which includes a module and an explorer vehicle (also known as a rover), took off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province at 2:23 am.
With the probe, China is aiming to carry out the first-ever landing made on the far side of the moon.
The China National Space Administration announced that the lunar probe will perform “low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon,” according to Xinhua.
The Chang’e 4 will also transport a small container with seeds of potato and Arabidopsis – a herbaceous plant – with the aim of growing and flowering on the moon.
In August, China revealed images of the rover with which it hopes to examine the far side of the moon, something that has never been done.
Soviet and United States space programs had already photographed the dark side of the moon 50 years ago, but had never landed there. In 1962, an American unmanned mission had made an unsuccessful attempt.
The program Chang’e (named in honor of a goddess who, according to Chinese legend, lives on the moon) began with the launch of the first orbital probe in 2007. Four devices have been sent to the moon since.