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NASA was the toast of the nation in 2015, with long-awaited successes buzzing past Pluto with a probe, finding liquid water on Mars, and announcing a new concerted effort to land human feet on Mars. Even Congress responded, budgeting an additional $1.3 billion for the space agency.

Perhaps that was in anticipation of growing extraplanetary competition. China announced through its state media today that it is sending a probe to the never-explored dark side of the moon in 2018.

China had sent a letter of its intent for the mission to foreign countries in early 2015.

“The far side of the moon is never visible to Earth because of gravitational forces and has never been explored by humans,” wrote Xinhua. “Chang’e-4 will be the first mission in human history to embark on this expedition.”

The nation said it would study the geology of the dark side of the moon, which has never been explored.

China first sent a rover to the moon in December 2013, and was the third nation to make a soft landing on the lunar surface.

The country has also officially announced an additional probe to complete its three-step moon exploration program, which includes orbit, landing and return to Earth.

Other agencies have their eyes set on exploration beyond the Earth. The European Space Agency announced an initiative to build a village on the moon by 2030 during a conference last month.

Read more: Proposed 'Moon Village' to be Built by 2030

NASA has set a deadline to get a human landing on Mars in the same time frame.

The original space race began with the Soviet Union’s launching of the satellite Sputnik in 1957. Twelve years later, the U.S. essentially “won” the race with the Apollo moon landing. President Barack Obama cited the space race in his final State of the Union address earlier this week.

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