China’s rover on mission to uncover moon’s ‘dark side’
08 December, 2018, 22:57 | Author: Darnell Taylor
China launched a groundbreaking mission Saturday to land a spacecraft on the largely unexplored far side of the moon, demonstrating its growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russian Federation, the European Union and the U.S. Scientists have speculated about a number of uses for the far side of the moon, including setting up radio telescopes. A Long March-3B rocket, carrying the probe including a lander and a rover, blasted off from Xichang at 2:23 a.m., opening a new chapter in lunar exploration.
It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.
"Our country´s successful lunar exploration project not only vaults us to the top of the world´s space power ranks, it also allows the exploration of the far side of the moon", said Niu Min, an expert on China´s space programme.
Since the Moon spins around the same center of rotation as Earth, it's always facing away from us.
China has promoted global cooperation in its lunar exploration program, with four scientific payloads of the Chang'e-4 mission developed by scientists from Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.
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Chang´e-4 will be the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") rover mission in 2013. The far side is believed to have a thicker crust and is pockmarked by relatively more and deeper craters than the near side. It also carries seeds as part of a "miniature biosphere" experiment to grow vegetables in the lunar soil.
However, landing and roving there requires a relay satellite to transmit signals.
To solve this problem, the Chinese team launched a satellite into the L2 Lagrange point-one of the five points in a two-body system where the gravitational pull from both bodies nullifies the net effect enough for an object to be stable in that space without tumbling away into space.
To overcome that, a satellite was blasted into the moon's orbit in May, to act as a link between the lander and Earth. It is the world's first communication satellite operating in that orbit, according to CNSA.
In addition to studying Von Karman Crater's surface with spectrometers and ground-penetrating radar, Chang'e-4 will measure the solar wind, make low-frequency radio astronomy observations and monitor cosmic rays from a side of the moon that doesn't experience earthly interference. Its program also suffered a rare setback previous year with the failed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.
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