SHANGHAI, 15th January, 2016 (WAM)–China plans to land the first probe ever on the dark side of the moon by 2018, marking another milestone in its ambitious space programme.

China has launched a new round of work focussed on lunar exploration, coming about two years after it made the first “soft landing” on the moon since 1976 with the Chang’e-3 craft and its Jade Rabbit rover.

Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the moon, that is never visible from earth, but none has landed on it.

A new probe, the Chang’e-4, is similar to the Chang’e-3 but can carry a bigger payload, said head of the science, technology and defence industry administration’s lunar exploration centre.