China's history of lunar exploration

Pat Wise
December 11, 2018

China on Saturday launched a first probe ever to explore the dark side of the Moon, marking another milestone in its ambitious space program, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

If the mission succeeds, China has plans to launch a fifth Chang'e mission next year that would collect samples of the moon's surface and bring them back to Earth. The far side is believed to have a thicker crust and is pockmarked by relatively more and deeper craters than the near side.

Nearly an hour later, Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, reported that Chang'e-4 was launched successfully.

Chang'e-4 will be the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover mission in 2013, which surveyed the moon's surface for more than two years.

It's expected to land in early January after 26 days of flight, said China's Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The probe is carrying six experiments from China and four from overseas.

Dark or not, exploring the far side of the moon comes with its own challenges.

Китай запустил миссию на темную сторону Луны
China Launches Probe To Become First Nation To Explore Dark Side Of The Moon

Advancing China's space program has been a priority of its leaders, with President Xi Jinping calling for China to establish itself as a space power.

In orbit, the relay satellite can "see" both the earth and the far side of the moon.

The craft, Chang'e 4, is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon; it features a lunar station and a lunar rover.

The lunar rover will study the structure of the rocks and the effects of the solar wind striking the moon's surface.

If the mission succeeds, it will catapult China into the forefront of lunar exploration with a landing that no other nation has even dared to attempt. The mission will also analyze radiosity on the reverse side of the moon, to explore opportunities for placement of astronomical telescopes in the future.

The 140 kg Chang'e-4 rover.

Model of Chang'e moon lander. Chinese scientists and astronauts are barred from using the International Space Station, as the USA government refuses to work with China on space endeavors.

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