Published: Sat, December 08, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

China launches probe to explore dark side of Moon

China launches probe to explore dark side of Moon

It's official. At 2:23 am in southern China, a rocket carrying unique payload successfully launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

China has launched a rover to the far side of the moon in an ambitious bid to become the world's first to explore the lunar "dark side".

The rover is scheduled to observe the possibilities for sustaining plant life and seek potential water sources in the previously unexplored expanse, as well as conduct astronomical experiments aided by the far-side's natural shielding from Earth's electromagnetic waves. It has a different composition than sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

Scientists will study the data it collects in order to see how it compares to samples from the near side of the Moon.

The U.S.is the only country to place astronauts on the Moon, having done so most recently in December 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission.

A major challenge for such a mission is communicating with the robotic lander: as the far side of the moon always points away from earth, there is no direct "line of sight" for signals.

The Moon is tidally locked to Earth, rotating at the same rate that it orbits our planet, so the far side is never visible from Earth.


This article was originally published by Futurism.

Adding to the difficulties, Chang'e-4 is being sent to the Aitken Basin in the lunar south pole region - known for its craggy and complex terrain - state media has said.

"The main thing about this mission is not science, this is a technology mission", he said.

If successful, the Chang-e 4 will unlock valuable clues to the mysteries about the moon and the universe. During the lunar day, also lasting 14 earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127 C (261 F).

Instruments must withstand those fluctuations and generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night.

China aims to catch up with Russian Federation and the United States to become a major space power by 2030.

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.

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