China launches relay satellite for far side moon landing
A Long March-4C rocket carrying a relay satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), is launched from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, on May 21, 2018. (Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP)
BEIJING - China has launched a relay satellite as part of a groundbreaking program to land a probe on the far side of the moon this year.
The China National Space Administration said on its website that the satellite lofted into space early Monday aboard a Long March-4C rocket will facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang'e 4 mission.
China hopes to become the first country to soft-land a probe on the moon's far side, also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and is comparatively unknown.
China previously landed its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon and plans to land its Chang'e 5 probe there next year and have it return to Earth with samples -- the first time that has been done since 1976.