China Launches Lunar Probe

China is aiming to become the first nation to ever retrieve samples from the far-side of the moon with an ambitious mission to send a probe to the unexplored region that launched Friday.

The launch of the uncrewed mission is a key part of China’s goal of becoming a space power and, ultimately, sending its own astronauts to the lunar surface in the years ahead. The far-side of the moon is shrouded in mystery, and China hopes that by obtaining and returning the samples, the nation will glean key insights into how and why it’s so different from the near-side, according to multiple reports.

Friday’s launch also comes amid a multi-nation space race heating up between countries like India, Japan and the U.S. who have their sights set on the moon. Space agencies across the world view the moon as a valuable destination due to the resources it provides to aid further deep space exploration and missions to Mars.

The Chang’e-6 lunar probe, named after the Chinese mythical moon goddess, was carried aboard a rocket that lifted off at 5:27 p.m. Friday from the Wenchang launch center on south China’s Hainan island.

The spacecraft carrying the lander separated from China’s Long March-5 rocket within about 35 minutes as spectators gathered to watch the historic moment, which was also televised live by state broadcaster CCTV.

The country’s National Space Administration said the launch was a success, multiple outlets reported.

Read more here from USA Today.