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China prepares mission to land spacecraft on moon's far side

BEIJING (AP) — China is preparing to launch a ground-breaking mission to soft-land a spacecraft on the largely unexplored far side of the moon, demonstrating its growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russia, the European Union and U.S.

With its Chang'e 4 mission, China hopes to be the first country to ever successfully undertake such a landing. The moon's far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

If successful, the mission scheduled to blast off aboard a Long March 3B rocket early Saturday local time will propel the Chinese space program to a leading position in one of the most important areas of lunar exploration.

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