China's lunar probe may land on the moon's far side tonight

Chinese state media is reporting that China's Chang'e 4 robotic probe is expected to land on the far side of the moon tonight. Previous reports estimated the probe would land some time between January 1 and 3, but officials may have narrowed it down to a more precise time frame. Over the weekend, the Chang'e 4 successfully entered an elliptical path around the moon.

The Chang'e 4 robotic probe is destined for the moon's unexplored dark side, which — if it successfully lands — would be a new milestone exploration for humanity. The mission is being handled by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), which is hoping to explore the moon's South Pole-Aitken basin.

CNSA, at this time, has not publicly provided an estimated landing time for the Chang'e 4 probe, but Chinese state media has started reporting that it will land around night time in the Eastern US time zone and morning UK time.

The far side of the moon is exactly what it sounds like — the part of the moon that is always facing away from Earth. Humans have managed to take pictures of this region, but no human-made probe has ever explored this dark, cold part of the lunar surface. Assuming China's probe touches down successfully, it would mark the first time humans have put a machine down on the moon's dark side.

The system will involve Chang'e 4 communicating with China's Queqiao satellite, the only way it will be possible for communications to make their way from the moon's far side back to the team on Earth. A successful mission would provide researchers with an entirely new body of data from which to learn about the moon and the space around it.