Wednesday, 20 March, 2019


China Targets the Dark Side of the Moon with Chang'e-4 Rover

China Targets the Dark Side of the Moon with Chang'e-4 Rover China Targets the Dark Side of the Moon with Chang'e-4 Rover
Kristine Garrett | 12 December, 2018, 14:11

Unlike the near side of the moon that is "tidally locked" and always faces the earth, and offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged.

If successful, the historic undertaking could substantially deepen the world's understanding of the moon and the solar system.

The Chang'e 4 rover is also equipped with an energetic neutral atom analyser, a panoramic camera and an infrared spectrometer.

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.

Last week we talked about the Chinese Chang'e-4 lunar probe that China was set to launch to study the far side of the moon.

According to Chinese media, some of these experiments will take advantage of the lack of radio interference to carry out low-frequency astronomical studies. One of the Chinese experiments, designed by Chinese universities, will attempt to grow potatoes and a flowering plant similar to cabbage in a bid to create a "lunar mini-biosphere".

Artist’s rendering of the Chang’e-4 lander released on Aug. 15 2018. Image provided by CASC
Artist’s rendering of the Chang’e-4 lander released on Aug. 15 2018. Image provided by CASC

The Chang'e 4 mission is a step in that direction, significant for the engineering expertise needed to explore and settle the moon, McDowell said. The nation has two more missions lined up, Chang'e 5 and Chang'e 6, that will focus on collecting lunar samples from the near side of our nearest cosmic neighbour and returning them to Earth for study. Despite the difficulties, it is the longest-running lunar rover in history.

Chang'e is the goddess of the moon in Chinese folklore. The lander weighs 2,600 pounds and the rover weighs just over 300 pounds.

Chang'e-4 isn't very groundbreaking from a technical point of view: it's pretty much a clone of the Chang'e-3 rover which landed on the moon in 2013 (and was built as a backup in case something happened to Chang'g-3). Its success provided a major boost to China's space programme.

China's going over to the Dark Side - of the Moon, that is.

Officials from the China National Space Administration told the state-run China Daily newspaper that there are plans to land on the northern and southern lunar polar regions by 2030.

The mission is one of a series of lofty ambitions for China's military-led space program, including a super-heavy lift vehicle of greater payload capacity than SpaceX and NASA's, a reusable launch vehicle by 2021, a Mars rover, a permanently crewed space station and a moon base.

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