China has launched a ground-breaking mission to land an unmanned spacecraft on the far side of the Moon.
Space.com reports that the Chang’e 4 spacecraft was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center atop a Long March 3B rocket at about 1:23 p.m. EST Friday.
With its Chang'e 4 mission, China hopes to be the first country to ever successfully undertake a landing on the far side of the Moon. The Moon's far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.
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The mission also demonstrates China’s growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russia, the European Union and the U.S.
In 2013 China became just the third country, after the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union, to successfully “soft land” on the Moon when its Chang'e 3 lander reached the lunar surface.
The U.S. is the only country to place astronauts on the Moon, having done so most recently in December 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission. Only 12 men, all Americans, have set foot on the Moon.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing and lunar missions continue to be a source of fascination.
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A checklist that traveled to the surface of the Moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin recently sold at auction in New York for $62,500. In the same auction, three tiny Moon rocks brought back from space by the unmanned Soviet Luna-16 mission were sold for $855,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers