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China sends out probe to moon’s far side

Chang'e-4 liftoff
A Chinese Long March 3B rocket lifts off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, sending the Chang’e-4 probe into space. (CASC via Weibo)

China’s space effort launched its most ambitious robotic lunar mission to date, taking aim at a crater near the south pole on the moon’s far side.

The Chang’e-4 combination lander and rover were sent into space atop a Long March 3B rocket at 2:22 a.m. local time Dec. 8 (10:22 a.m. PT Dec. 7) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China’s Sichuan Province, according to Sina Tech and other Chinese sources.

Chang’e-4’s flight plan calls for the probe to trace a looping series of orbits for 26 days or so, eventually putting it into position for a landing in Von Karman Crater, part of the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

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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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