China may not be the first country to send a spacecraft to the moon, but it is considering landing a probe on the dark side of the Earth's natural satellite in 2020. If successful, China will be the first country in the world to be able to do so.
The mission will have the Chang'e 4 spacecraft orbit the moon prior to it sending a rover to the lunar surface, said China's Lunar Exploration Program chief engineer Wu Weiren, who added that they will likely choose a challenging site.
"We probably will choose a site on which it is more difficult to land and more technically challenging ... Our next move will probably see some spacecraft land on the far side of the moon," Wu said.
Various probes have already observed the side of the moon that cannot be seen from Earth, but landing on this side has not yet been attempted.
The South Pole-Aitken basin, a huge impact crater, is considered an ideal landing spot because it can provide more information about the history of the moon.
China became the third country after the U.S. and Russia to land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon when it successfully landed the Chang'e 3 on the lunar surface in December 2013. The success of the mission saw the completion of the second phase of the country's lunar exploration program.
In March, China was reported to start the third phase in 2017 with the launch of the Chang'e 5, which will attempt to orbit and land on the moon then return to Earth. The lander will excavate and collect rock samples from the lunar surface.
Some security experts have expressed concern that the ambitious exploration program of China on the moon could mean that the country would have dominance over lunar resources such as water and Helium 3, a potential alternative to nuclear power, in the future.
Interestingly, other nations attempt to match China's accomplishments in what is now being dubbed as the Asian space race. Japan's space agency, for instance, announced early this month that it would land an unmanned rover on the moon's surface by 2018. Many analysts likely believe that China has plans for a manned mission albeit the country does not commit to it.