to land probe on dark side of moon in 2018: Xinhua
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[January 15, 2016]
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China plans to
land the first probe ever on the dark side of the moon in 2018, marking
another milestone in its ambitious space program, the official Xinhua
news agency reported.
China has launched a new round of work focused on lunar
exploration, coming about two years after it made the first "soft
landing" on the moon since 1976 with the Chang'e-3 craft and its
Jade Rabbit rover.
Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon, that is
never visible from earth, but none has landed on it.
A new probe, the Chang'e-4, is similar to the Chang'e-3 but can
carry a bigger payload, Xinhua quoted Liu Jizhong, head of the
science, technology and defense industry administration's lunar
exploration center, as saying late on Thursday.
The craft will study geological conditions on the far side of the
moon, Liu said.
Advancing China's space program has been a priority of leaders, with
President Xi Jinping calling for China to establish itself as a
China insists that its space program is for peaceful purposes.
However, the U.S. Defense Department has highlighted China's
increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities
aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets
during a crisis.
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In March, the Chinese government said it would open up its lunar
exploration program to companies rather than simply relying on the
state-owned sector as before, hoping to boost technological
Xinhua said China sent "a letter of intent of cooperation" on its
latest mission to foreign countries in early 2015. It was not clear
if any had signed up.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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