China launches relay satellite in pursuit of far-side-of-moon landing

China launched a relay satellite on May 21, as part of its future plans to send a lander to the far side of the Moon, often figuratively called the “dark side of the Moon.”

The satellite, known as Queqiao, or “Magpie Bridge”, will allow China to communicate with future Moon lander, Chang’e 4. Chang’e 4 is intended to travel to the far side of the Moon by the end of 2018 (The Guardian).

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The planned probe will carry seeds for growing potatoes and a flowering plant related to cabbage, as part of an experiment. If successful, China will be the first country to land a probe on the side of the Moon that never faces the Earth. 

The country is aiming for a human landing in 15 years (The Guardian) and to start construction of its own manned space station next year.

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Exploration of the Moon started in 1959.

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