It may seem like national space programs have shifted their attention away from Earth's moon, but that's not the case. In fact, China's space program has just released more information about its intentions for landing a new spacecraft on the moon by the year 2018. And, this time, China's visiting the dark side.
Just over two years ago, China successfully landed the Chang'e 3 rover on the moon, in a region called the Mare Imbrium. This was the first soft landing on the moon since 1976, and now, program directors are making plans to send another rover called the Chang'e 4.
Chang'e 4 is being designed to explore the dark side of the moon, which is never visible from Earth. In the past, other crafts have observed this region, but the Chang'e 4 will be the first to ever set "foot" on the soil.
The primary goal of Chang'e 4 will be to study geological conditions in this previously unexplored area. But, of course, there are those who worry over China's true intentions. Government officials are already monitoring China's expanding space initiatives to ensure it doesn't present any threats to national security.
China officials affirm that its space programs are designed to further the exploration of space and technology, and are entirely peaceful in nature. In addition, the Chinese government announced last March that it intended to open its lunar exploration program to private researchers and developers, in hopes of achieving greater progress and a higher level of transparency.