Columnist Leonard David

China Launching Lander, Rover to Moon's Far Side This Year

Chang'e 4 art
Artist's illustration of China's planned communications spacecraft, which will relay data between controllers on Earth and the Chang'e 4 lander and rover on the moon's far side. (Image credit: CNSA)

China is pressing forward on its Chang’e 4 lunar probe, which is scheduled to be launched in the latter half of this year. The spacecraft will attempt the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon.

As a prelude to the mission, China is set to launch a relay satellite in the first half of 2018. This communications craft will be positioned at the Earth-moon Lagrange point 2 (EM-L2), China's state-run Xinhua news service has reported.

This EM-L2 locale will allow the satellite to relay data between controllers here on Earth and the Chang'e 4 lander and rover on the moon's far side.

Meanwhile, China is soliciting 20,000 messages that will be sent into space via the relay satellite. "People all over the world can follow the WeChat account 'slecbj' to submit their wishes from Dec. 19, 2017, to March 6, 2018," Xinhua reported.

Leonard David is author of "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet," published by National Geographic. The book is a companion to the National Geographic Channel series "Mars." A longtime writer for, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. This version of the story published on

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He has received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.