China launches pioneering mission to far side of moon
China launches pioneering mission to far side of moon
It's Official: A Lander Is Headed to The Far Side of The Moon
08 December, 2018, 15:07
Previous spacecraft have seen the far side of the Moon, but none has landed on it.
Chang'e-4 would mark the first soft landing on the moon's far side, following crash landings of probes such as NASA's twin Grail spacecraft.
A Long March-3B rocket, carrying the probe including a lander and a rover, blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province at 2:23 a.m., opening a new chapter in lunar exploration. The mission contains radio spectrometers to characterise this radio wave environment. The far side is believed to have a thicker crust and is pockmarked by relatively more and deeper craters than the near side.
It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the heavily cratered surface, uncloaking some of the mystery of the moon´s "dark side".
Chang'e-4 comes five years after China sent Chang'e-3 lander to the moon's far side.
Von Kármán crater is of interest to scientists because it is located within the oldest and largest impact feature on the Moon - the South Pole-Aitken Basin. The first and second Chang'e missions were created to gather data from orbit, while the third and fourth were built for surface operations.
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It may also carry plant seeds and silkworm eggs, according to Xinhua.
To overcome that, a satellite was blasted into the moon's orbit in May, to act as a link between the lander and Earth.
Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.
Once on the moon´s surface, the rover faces an array of extreme challenges.
During the lunar night - which lasts 14 earth days - temperatures will drop as low as minus 173C, while during the lunar day, also lasting 14 earth days, temperatures rocket as high as 127C.
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Yutu conquered those challenges and, after initial setbacks, ultimately surveyed the moon´s surface for 31 months.
Space programs have taken pictures of the so-called dark side of the Moon before, but we've never had a chance to get an up-close look. China has promoted worldwide cooperation in its lunar exploration program, with four scientific payloads in the Chang'e-4 mission developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.
Chang'e-5 and 6 are sample return missions, delivering lunar rock and soil to laboratories on Earth.
However, while China has insisted its ambitions are purely peaceful, the U.S. Defense Department has accused it of pursuing activities aimed at preventing other nations from using space-based assets during a crisis.
The project, he said in an interview with local website Netease, "greatly inspires everyone´s national pride and self-confidence".
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