China to Send a Mission to Moon's Mysterious 'Dark Side'

China is moving forward with plans to land a probe on the far side of the moon, state news agency Xinhua reports.

China is moving forward with plans to land a probe on the far side of the moon, state news agency Xinhua reports.

On Thursday, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense's chief of the lunar exploration Liu Jizhong announced that the agency was planning to land the Chang'e-4 probe on the far side of the moon in 2018.

PHOTOS: Stunning Supermoon Eclipse Wows the World

The agency is also open to cooperating with other international space programs to launch the mission.

In May 2015, China's National Space Administration first announced its intention to explore the moon's far side, promising to "choose a site on which it is more difficult to land and more technically challenging."

The far side of the moon - also known as the "dark side" - is never visible from Earth due to a phenomenon known as tidal locking. Tidal forces on Earth have slowed the moon's rotation to match the speed of its orbit, leaving the same half of the moon always facing Earth.

NEWS: Maria Mystery: Why Moon's Far Side Has No ‘Face'

The far side was first seen in 1959, when Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 sent back 17 low-quality photographs depicting the moon's mountainous terrain and craters.

To date, a spacecraft has never landed on the far side.

This blog originally appeared on DSCOVRD.

There's no denying it, the "supermoon lunar eclipse" didn't disappoint. A large swathe of the planet was treated to a rare lunar event on Sunday night and early Monday morning when a so-called "supermoon" coincided with a lunar eclipse. Neither of these astronomical events are particularly rare in their own right, but their coincidence hasn't happened since 1982 and won't happen again until 2033.

MORE: Stunning Supermoon Lunar Eclipse is Coming

Although clouds interrupted most of totality in my location (near Los Angeles, Calif.), I was lucky enough to spot the beautiful "blood moon" for a short time and, later, the bright disk of a supermoon. Here I've collected some supermoon lunar eclipse photos from around the world, including my own. If you want to have your astronomical shots featured, send them to, or tweet me at





Clouds were tricky over Los Angeles, Calif., where total lunar eclipse was often obscured by cloud, as shown in this view over the Griffith Observatory.

PHOTOS: How Our Lunar Understanding Has Changed Since Apollo

It just so happens that last night's supermoon was also a "Harvest Moon" -- the closest full moon to the autumnal equinox.

MORE: Spacecraft to Dash Through Supermoon Eclipse Shadow

Photo: The lunar eclipse over Windsor Castle, Berkshire, UK, in the early hours of Monday morning.

During a lunar eclipse, the Earth is between the sun and the moon, but the moon still receives sunlight that refracts through our planet's atmosphere, often turning the moon deep red or orange. This is not why some eclipses are called "blood moons," however. A blood moon is the last total lunar eclipse of 4 successive total lunar eclipses (with no partial lunar eclipses in between), each of which is separated by 6 lunar months. For more information on the "lunar tetrad",



PHOTOS: When the ‘Supermoon’ Wowed the World

Photo: The supermoon lunar eclipse begins to set over Gaza.

The supermoon sets over Sydney, Australia, before the lunar eclipse commenced. Unfortunately for Australia (and much of Asia), the eclipse occurred on the other side of the planet.

The supermoon lunar eclipse at totality in clear skies over Jerusalem, Israel.

The supermoon lunar eclipse over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Clouds block a clear view of the supermoon eclipse over New York.

Clear skies over Cape Town, South Africa, provided sharp views of totality.

The supermoon eclipse hangs over statues in Venice, Italy.

As the supermoon slipped out of totality, sunlight reflected bright off the moon's surface, ending the last supermoon eclipse until 2033.

The total lunar eclipse comes to an end over Cape Town, South Africa.

After the lunar eclipse, the supermoon continued through the night. Although the term "supermoon" sounds grand, it is a bit overstated. As the moon orbits the Earth in a slightly eccentric path, the Earth-moon distance varies by approximately 30,000 miles, making a full moon appear 14% bigger in the night sky at the point of closest approach (perigee) compared with the point of furthest extent (apogee). Still, the moon can shine up to 30% brighter, making a supermoon appear brighter than normal.

PHOTOS: Lunar Phases: The Changing Face of the Moon

Photo: The supermoon on Sunday night (local time) after lunar eclipse over Woodland Hills, Calif.