China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) recently announced a new round of lunar exploration with plans to land a probe on the moon’s dark side in 2018.
In 2013, China’s Chang’e-3 landed on the moon. It was the first landing humanity made since 1976.
“The far side of the moon is never visible to Earth because of gravitational forces and has never been explored by humans,” reports the Xinhua News Agency, China’s official press agency. “Chang’e-4 will be the first mission in human history to embark on this expedition, said Liu Jizhong, chief of the lunar exploration center under SASTIND.”
According to Liu, the probe is similar to Chang’e-3 in structure, but can carry a larger payload. Chang’e-4 will be tasked with studying the geological conditions of the moon’s dark side.
In 2015, the U.S. Dept. of Defense (DOD), in its annual report to Congress on military and security, said “China possesses the most rapidly maturing space program in the world and is using its on-orbit and ground-based assets to support its national civil, economic, political, and military goals and objectives.”
The department reported that by the end of October 2014, China had launched 16 spacecraft.
Additionally, “China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers,” according to the DOD.
In early 2015, China sent a letter of intent of cooperation to foreign countries regarding its latest mission, according to Xinhua. Reuters reported that it was unclear if any countries signed the letter.