China's latest moon mission to put rover where none have gone before

James Marshall
January 5, 2019

For the mission to be possible, a communications satellite was launched earlier this year - in May - to relay its signals back to Earth. The spacecraft will be carrying a lander and a rover, that is said to touch down the surface on the lunar surface. They'll blast off Saturday for the first mission to land on the dark side of the moon.

The Chang'e-4 is an unmanned apparatus, which naturally reduces the risk, but it will still be a challenge for engineers to ensure the commands during the approach of the space probe to the far side of the Moon, the precision landing of the probe to a specified point, using a remote control, and the successful transmission of images to Earth.

China's National Space Administration is believed to be targeting the robotic lander at the Von Karaman crater, near the Moon's south pole.

Prior to this, no other mission launched to the far side because there is no direct line of sight between Earth and that part of Moon.

Chang'e 4 rover and lander models produced by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation on display on the first day of the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in November. Since then, sources have confirmed that the historic launch will occur on December 7, with liftoff scheduled for around 1:30 p.m. EST (2:30 a.m. on December 8, local time).

The far side, also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth, remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

There's been no official word on when landing on the moon will take place, but Jones reports it could be january 3.

The rover sports the Panoramic Camera (PCAM), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), and the Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN), a contribution from Sweden. For example, huge, dark basaltic plains called maria cover much of the near side but nearly none of the far side. Researchers will keep tabs on how these organisms live and develop on the lunar surface.

"We want to study the respiration of the seeds and the photosynthesis on the Moon", Liu Hanlong, chief director of the experiment and vice president of Chongqing University, told the state-run Xinhua news agency earlier this year.

The Chang'e-4 is also assigned to prepare for future crewed missions and the CNAS's desired moon base. Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, stopped moving due to a mechanical problem about 40 days after the lunar rover landed there. Chang'e 5 will include a lunar lander and a rover that could return to the Earth after collecting samples and performing surveys on the planet's satellite, according to the CLEP. "But first, we have to practise operating a mission from the far side first, and that's what Chang'e 4 will help us do".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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