The first spacecraft to attempt a landing on the far side of the moon is due to blast off from a launch facility in China, a historic step in lunar exploration. The Chinese space agency’s Chang’e 4 mission aims to drop a robotic lander and rover into the moon’s vast and unexplored South Pole-Aitken basin.
Named after the Chinese moon goddess, the Chang’e 4 spacecraft is expected to launch at about 6.30pm GMT on Friday from the Xichang satellite launch centre in Sichuan, south-west China. The basin it is bound for is more than 15,000 miles (24,000km) across and eight miles deep.
“Going to the far side of the moon is a major technological feather in the cap for China,” said Katherine Joy, a lunar scientist at the University of Manchester.