China means business when it comes to space. The Chinses space agency is making final preparations for a historic mission that will see the Asian superpower try and land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, for the first time in history.
China is days away from launching the historical mission that will explore what is considered the most mysterious part of Earth’s faithful natural satellite.
Chang’e-4 will lif off on December 8th, and will hopefully become the first rover to land on the dark side of the lunar surface.
The spacecraft will launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province. It will enter the moon’s orbit and is set to touch down on the 186-kilometer-wide Von Karman crater.
The Change-4 spacecraft is composed of a lander and a rover. A Satellite dubbed Queqiao will facilitate communications and data transfer between the orbiter, the rover, and experts back on Earth.
The primary mission of Chang’e-4 is to visit the unexplored region of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, located in the southern hemisphere of the far side of the moon, the region includes the Von Karman crater, among many others point of interest that the Chinese Space Agency is eager to explore.
Bo Wu, a geoinformatician at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, told Scientific American “It is a key area to answer several important questions about the early history of the Moon, including its internal structure and thermal evolution”
“Since the lander is on the far side, the Moon will be blocking direct radio contact with the Earth, so a relay satellite will be used for communications,” NASA explained outlined.
NASA notes that the Chang’e-4 rover has a total mass of 140 kg. It has a rectangular body 1.1 meters high, 1.5 m long, and 1 m wide, but unlike the Chang’e-3 rover will not have a robotic arm.
It is composed of 6 wheels, two solar panels, and a dish antenna.
Its scientific payload will have cameras, including a Panoramic Camera (PCAM), a Visible/Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and the Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN). Chang’e 3 had a lander mass of about 1200 kg and the rover mass was 140 kg.
Once on the surface, the rover will map the area near the landing site, and conduct the first experiments on the far side of the moon. One of the mission goals is to discover whether planets can grow there. The Chinese rover is also set to measure the moon’s layers using its onboard radars.
Understanding the Far Side of the moon is of great importance, explained NASA experts.
“The lunar farside — that mysterious face of the Moon hidden from Earth – contains a cache of clues about how the Earth formed, how planets evolved, and how volcanic and impact cratering processes reshaped the Solar System,” NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research team stated.
“The far side of the Moon holds the key to the earliest bombardment of the Earth and whether impact cratering processes were involved in the origin and earliest evolution of life on Earth,” they explained.
In 2019, Chian wants to launch the Chang’e-5 mission with the goal to land on the moon, collect samples, and return them back to earth for further studies.