China says it has opened a "new chapter in lunar exploration" after sending a rover towards the far side of the moon.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe was launched on a Long March 3B rocket from the southwestern Xichang launch centre, and is expected to reach its destination sometime around the turn of the year.

While the terrain on the near side of the moon has many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is rugged and mountainous.

Image: The rover is expected to land at the turn of the year. File pic

It also presents communication difficulties because the far side of the moon always points away from Earth, meaning signals could be blocked.

To overcome that, a satellite was blasted into the moon's orbit in May, to act as a link between the lander and Earth.

Chinese state media said the area being targeted was the Aitken Basin in the lunar south pole region.

Ten experiments – six from China and four from abroad – include planting potatoes and other seeds.

There will also be mineral and radiation tests, the Xinhua news agency said.

Chang'e-4 will be the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover mission in 2013, which surveyed the moon's surface for more than two years.

More from China

China, which is investing billions in its military-run space programme, hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022.

It would also like to develop a moon base through several manned missions.

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