NASA will become the second agency to land on the far side of the moon.
NASA has announced the selection of three new scientific payloads at once, which will be part of its own initiative called the Commercial Lunar Payload Services. Focused on the exploration of the Moon, it will be part of the Artemis program. Two of the announced spacecraft will attempt a debut landing for NASA on the far side of the moon.
Everything you need to know about NASA’s plans to land on the far side of the Moon
1. The goal of the mission is to collect data on the area as a potential future destination for astronauts who will fly as part of the Artemis program. The far side of the moon, as you probably know, had remained untouched for an extremely long time, both for people, machines and for spaceships in general.
2. This changed with the landing of China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft in 2019, which continues to operate to this day, far surpassing its original life expectancy. Although China successfully landed there, there is a lot to learn about the unexplored hemisphere of the Moon before even attempting to send humans there.
3. One of the proposals chosen by NASA executives is set to land on an impact crater called the Schrödinger Basin. The idea was made specifically in order to be able to better understand tectonic activity on the far side of this satellite of the Earth.
4. The Farside Seismic Suite, a project of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will spend several months collecting data using two installed seismometers.
5. In addition to providing more information on lunar tectonic activity, the spacecraft is expected to shed additional light on how small meteorites affect the far side of the Moon, as well as provide more data on the inner structure of this satellite.
6. The second spacecraft which will be headed to the far side of the moon is the Lunar Interior Temperature and Materials Suite (LITMS).
7. Equipped with two instruments at once, the spacecraft, launched as part of Commercial Lunar Payload Services, will investigate the Moon’s internal heat flow as well as its electrical conductivity.
8. These payloads, now officially confirmed, are a good example of NASA’s capabilities of performing important scientific research in small and economic packages. Instead of planning and sending grand missions to the far side of the Moon, NASA will only focus on specific tasks that will answer the necessary questions.
9. The payload suites are in the early stages of development but have been scheduled for launch in the 2024 timeframe. As with the entire Artemis program, experts have no guarantees that it will begin in 2024 as initial plans suggested.
10. Studying the far side of the moon is an important mission for science but even with these efforts, I do not see NASA sending crewed missions there any time soon. Even with all the necessary data, such an attempt would be irrational without several new successful missions to the visible hemisphere. Nevertheless, these payload suites will start a new era in Lunar exploration that will help astronomers land on the far side of the moon in the distant future, without a doubt.
*China’s Chang’e 4 mission has already beamed back hundreds of images from the far side of the Moon. We previously selected the 10 most impressive photos. See them here!
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• Liberatore , S. (2021, June 11). NASA is set to explore the far side of the moon for the FIRST time. Daily Mail.
• NASA. (n.d.). NASA Selects New Science Investigations for Future Moon Deliveries. NASA.
• Tran, T. (2021, June 12). NASA Is Planning to Land on Far Side of the Moon for the First Time. Futurism.