A Chinese space probe is all set to land on the dark side of the moon for the first time, the official Xinhua news agency reported. This mission is seen significant as China pushes forward its space programme. The probe, Chang'e-4, entered a planned orbit on Sunday "to prepare for the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon", the news agency said, citing the China National Space Administration. It didn't say when the landing would occur. China launched the Chang'e-4 probe earlier this month, carried by a Long March-3B rocket. It includes a lander and a rover to explore the surface of the moon.
ALSO READ | NASA spaceship zooms toward farthest world ever photographed
China aims to catch up with Russia and the United States to become a major space power by 2030. It is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year. Xinhua said that the probe had entered an elliptical lunar orbit at 08.55 Beijing time, which brought it at its closest point just 15 kilometres away from the surface of the moon. The Chang'e-4 first entered a lunar orbit on December 12.
The space control centre will select a "proper time" to land the probe on the far side of the moon, Xinhua reported. Its descent is being aided by a relay satellite, the Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge.
Earlier, China planned to establish a robot station on the moon to conduct bigger and more complicated experimental research on lunar geography. The station could slash the costs of returning rock samples to Earth, Jiao Weixin, a Peking University space science professor had said.
ALSO READ | NASA to continue ride Russian spacecraft Soyuz
China's ambitious space programme included several manned missions, building a permanent space station and reaching to Mars.
In support of the lunar landing programme, China will launch a carrier rocket with a 100-ton-plus payload for the first time by about 2030, the report quoted a report of the symposium published on the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the central cabinet. China's first Mars probe is scheduled to be launched on a Long March 5 by 2020 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, South China's Hainan Province. The probe will hopefully orbit, land and deploy a rover on the Red Planet, the report said.