China is launching an expedition that will send a probe to the dark side of the moon in 2018, says Chinese news service Xinhua. This particular lunar territory has never been explored before.
To find out what it's like on this uncharted territory, China is sending the Chang'e 4 probe to study the terrain, according to China Central Television. The mission is a follow up to that of the Chang'e 3, which investigated the side of the moon facing the Earth in 2013.
"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, head of China's Lunar Exploration and Aerospace Engineering Center, told CCTV. To support the Chang'e 4, the space center will also launch a satellite to help relay communication between the probe and researchers back on Earth.
The mission is important for China, which wants to establish itself alongside Russia and the U.S. as one of the countries at the forefront of space travel. The bulk of the country's space missions have launched after 1998, according to Space Policy Online.
What China stands to gain from space exploration is largely economic. As China invests more in space travel, it can better foster the space economy, giving emerging companies and competitions, like Elon Musk's SpaceX, room to develop technologies and services aimed at exploring the expanse beyond Earth.