China is about to make space history. In December, the country will launch the first spacecraft ever to land on the farside of the moon. Another craft, slated for takeoff in 2019, will be the first to bring lunar rocks back to Earth since 1976.
These two missions — the latest in China’s lunar exploration series named after the Chinese moon goddess,Chang’e — are at the forefront of renewed interest in exploring our nearest celestial body. India’s space agency as well as private companies based in Israel and Germany are also hoping for robotic lunar missions in 2019. And the United States aims to have astronauts orbiting the moon starting in 2023 and to land astronauts on the lunar surface in the late 2020s.