China’s latest white paper on space exploration confirms the country’s plans to send a rover to the moon’s far side in 2018 and put a rover on Mars in 2020.
Today’s white paper, released by the State Council Information Office, says the Chang’e 4 mission will “conduct in-situ and roving detection and relay communications at Earth-moon L2 point” in 2018, the official China Daily newspaper reported.
In 2012, NASA’s Grail probes crash-landed on the moon’s far side – the so-called “dark side” that never faces Earth. However, no spacecraft has made a soft landing on the moon’s normally hidden half.
Communicating with such a spacecraft would require using a relay satellite, such as the one that China plans to send to the L2 gravitational balance point beyond the moon for Chang’e 4.