A Lander Is Headed to The Far Side of The Moon

Federico Mansilla
Diciembre 8, 2018

Because of a phenomenon called "tidal locking", we see only one "face" of the Moon from Earth.

Chang'e-4 will be the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") rover mission in 2013.

The Chang'e-4 combination lander and rover were sent into space atop a Long March 3B rocket at 2:22 a.m. local time Saturday (10:22 a.m. PT Friday) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China's Sichuan Province, according to Sina Tech and other Chinese sources.

The mission will also characterise the "radio environment" on the far side, a test created to lay the groundwork for the creation of future radio astronomy telescopes on the far side, which is shielded from the radio noise of Earth.

Because the Moon is tidally locked with Earth - its day is the same length as its orbit - there's a far side that never faces towards us.

The Soviet Union was the first nation to shed light on the moon's dark side when it captured the first images of its surface in 1959, exposing a mountainous and craggy geography radically different from the more familiar half.

Futurism has previously reported on the Chang'e 4 lunar lander, which is scheduled to land near the Moon's southern pole in a giant plain called the Von Kármán crater. The first and second Chang'e missions were created to gather data from orbit, while the third and fourth were built for surface operations.

The static lander will carry a 3kg container with potato and arabidopsis plant seeds to perform a biological experiment.

They include low-frequency radio astronomical studies - aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the far side - as well as mineral and radiation tests, Xinhua cited the China National Space Administration as saying.

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China launched the relay satellite "Queqiao", meaning Magpie Bridge, on May 21 to set up the communication link between the earth and the moon's far side.

China, which is investing billions in its military-run space programme, hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022.

An artist's conception shows the Chang'e-4 rover on the lunar surface.

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.

The rover´s instruments must withstand those fluctuations and it must generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night. It demonstrates the competitiveness of the country's space program on the worldwide scene.

The mission is part of a larger Chinese programme of lunar exploration.

Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang´e-5, next year to collect samples and bring them back to earth.

Chinese space officials have discussed sending crewed missions to the moon in the 2020s or 2030s, and potentially building an outpost near the lunar south pole.

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