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How China plans to put rover on moon’s far side

China's lunar rover
An artist’s conception shows the Chang’e 4 spacecraft landing on the moon. (CCTV via YouTube)

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.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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