05/23/2015, 00.00
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Beijing plans the first landing on the "dark side" of the Moon

The Chang'e 4 spacecraft would reach the earth’s satellite by 2020, then land a rover to the surface to analyse it. China’s interest in space is growing, with the moon’s raw materials wetting its appetite.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China is planning a space mission to the "dark side" of the Moon by 2020. If successful, it would be first country to do so. The planned mission would see the Chang'e 4 spacecraft orbit the moon before landing a rover on its surface.

"We probably will choose a site on which it is more difficult to land and more technically challenging,” said Wu Weiren, the chief engineer for China's Lunar Exploration Programme.

“Our next move will probably see some spacecraft land on the far side of the moon," he told state-run broadcaster CCTV.

China successfully landed a spacecraft - the Chang'e 3 - on the moon in December 2013, becoming only the third nation after the United States and Russia to land on its surface.

Whilst the side of the moon not visible from earth has been observed by various probes, a landing has never been attempted. The Chinese government remains tight-lipped about the mission. When contacted by CNN, Wu declined to comment further.

Some security experts fear China's ambitious lunar exploration programme could mean Chinese control of the moon's resources. These include water and Helium 3 – a clean-burning fuel that could potentially offer an alternative to nuclear power.

Other nations are trying to match China's accomplishments in space in what some observers are calling an Asian space race. Last month, Japan's space agency announced that it would land an unmanned rover on the surface of the moon by 2018.

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