China has announced it will launch its next major lunar mission- the Chang'e-4 probe- before 2020 which, in a first for China's space efforts, will be partly funded by private investment. The craft will conduct a soft landing on the Moon’s far side, the first such probe to do so in human history.
A giant leap, both for China, and the world. The Chang'e-4 probe will explore the far side of the moon, a mysterious world, that always faces away from Earth.
And the probe will be launched in 4 years time.
"The environment and other conditions on the far side of the moon remain unknown, and the landscape there is also very complicated. We have also made some changes accordingly in the probe design," Liu Jizhong, dean of Lunar Exploration & Aerospace Engineering Center, said.
In addition to the complicated landscape, experts say stable communications will also be essential to land safely.
"Compared with landing on the near side, the biggest change this time is that we will add a relay satellite, which can provide communication between earth and the moon. Meanwhile, we will also conduct some deep space exploration using that satellite," Liu said.
And in another first in the country's space efforts, the lunar mission will pilot programs using private investment from enterprises or even individuals in a bid to accelerate aerospace innovation, cut production costs and promote military-civilian relationships.
Chang'e-4 was originally conceived as a backup mission to Chang'e-3, China's first lunar landing mission.
About two years ago, the probe successfully soft-landed on the Moon, making the country the third to achieve such a feat, following the US and former Soviet Union.