A Chinese space probe is moving into position to land on the dark side of the moon for the first. It has a different composition than sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed. The spacecraft landed close to the Bull’s-Eye, but NASA did not have yet have the final calculations. China launched the Chang’e-4 probe earlier this month, carried by a Long March-3B rocket. The scientific tasks of the Chang’e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.
To facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 mission, China in May launched a relay satellite named Queqiao, or “Magpie Bridge”, after an ancient Chinese folk tale. A rendering of the Queqiao satellite performing its communications relay beyond the moon. China’s Chang’e 4 probe has now entered lunar orbit, making steady headway towards the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon by a man-made spacecraft. The probe will also study the environment of the moon’s dark side, including landforms, mineral composition, surface structure and radiation conditions.
Much of the Chang’e 4 lander and rover design is modeled after the Chang’e 3 and its Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover. This mission is also the most meaningful deep space exploration research project in the world in 2018. While one side of the moon always faces Earth, the other side is always in shadow and largely unexplored. The first spacecraft to reach the Moon was in 1959, as part of the Soviet Union’s Lunar program.
China also looks to have a manned space station of its own in orbit by 2022. But the mission still faces numerous challenges ahead, according to project manager Zhang, including multiple adjustments to its final orbit, braking near the moon and taking advantage of the lunar gravity.
China landed its Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit”, rover on the moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe there next year and have it return to Earth with samples – the first time that will have been done since 1976. China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making it only the third country after Russia and the U. S. to do so.
Long March 3B rocket carrying a lunar probe blasted off at 2:23 a. m. from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province in southwestern China, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The Chinese lunar space programme is hugely ambitious. A crewed lunar mission is also under consideration. Chang’e-4 is also a lander-rover combination and will explore both above and below the lunar surface after arriving at the South Pole – Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater following a 27-day journey.
It will also perform radio-astronomical studies that, because the far side always faces away from Earth, will be “free from interference from our planet’s ionosphere, human-made radio frequencies and auroral radiation noise”, space industry expert Leonard David wrote on the website Space.
It may also carry plant seeds and silkworm eggs, according to Xinhua. Chang’e is the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology. The Swedish-designed equipment will help scientists better understand the interaction of radiation from the sun, also known as solar wind, with the moon’s surface.
The satellite has successfully entered a halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the earth-moon system, about 455,000 km from the earth. It’s expected to land in early January after 26 days of flight, said China’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. The lander will conduct the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment, observe whether plants will grow in the low-gravity environment, and explore whether there is water or other resources at the poles.
The Chang’e 4 rover is 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and about 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide and tall, with two foldable solar panels and six wheels. Wu Weiren, Chief Engineer of China’s lunar exploration program, said the Chang’e 4 consists of two parts – a lander and a rover, and both carry multiple scientific instruments.
Chang’e-4 follows on from Chang’e-3, which was launched at the end of 2013. It becames the first Chinese spacecraft to soft-land on and explore an extraterrestrial object. Although the first image of the dark side of the Moon were taken in 1959 no spacecraft has ever landed on it. The Chang’e 4 mission will give scientists more detailed information than they’ve had before.
The vehicle will carry a panoramic camera, infrared imaging spectrometer and radar devices to study the lunar surface, soil and structures around its landing point near the moon’s south pole. Its depth and gravity measurements suggest that the huge impact may have exposed the moon’s mantle.
The country’s first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, was launched in 2007
China has focused its space efforts on the moon since its space program was initiated in 2004. If the Chang’e mission is successful. China will become the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. When it lands later this month, Chang’e-4 will drop into a vast and unexplored impact crater known as the South Pole-Aitken basin. The system gives scientists immediate access to Chang’e-4’s exact position.
China hopes the craft will land early 2019. The Chang’e program has launched three formal missions before, and this fourth one is special because China vowed to make an ambitious effort of studying the moon’s region that NASA has never reached before.
The probe would be able to send data back via the Chinese relay satellite “Queqiao”. Xinhua reports Potato, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs will also be taken to the moon, according to Global Times.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has already accepted a deal which will allow its astronauts to use China’s space station once it is in orbit. Not all the spacecraft’s features were possible, though.
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