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China prepares mission to land spacecraft on moon's far side

05 January 2019
China prepares mission to land spacecraft on moon's far side

"Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it's an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can "listen" to the deeper reaches of the cosmos", said Tongjie Liu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center for the China National Space Administration.

The rover of Chang'e 4 will land on the moon in about two weeks' time. The lander's home base always faces away from Earth, so a detector there will not likely pick up human-made radio frequencies and "noise" from auroras on Earth which could affect data. High-resolution photographs taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal a strikingly different geology and geography on the far side than on the side facing Earth.

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. Due to the fact that the Moon's period of rotation around Earth and its rotation about its axis are identical, only one hemisphere of the Moon can be observed from Earth at any point.

Why was no mission launched to the far side?

China on Saturday launched a first probe ever to explore the dark side of the Moon, marking another milestone in its ambitious space programme, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Queqiao has set up shop at the Earth-moon Lagrange point 2, a gravitationally stable spot beyond the moon from which the satellite will be able to relay communications between mission control and Chang'e 4.

Although located near the moon's south pole, Chang'e 4's target crater is still subjected to extreme temperature changes as the moon rotates once every 28 days. The spacecraft will be carrying a lander and a rover, that is said to touch down the surface on the lunar surface.

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.

The mission will also characterise the "radio environment" on the far side, a test created to lay the groundwork for the creation of future radio astronomy telescopes on the far side, which is shielded from the radio noise of Earth. A crewed lunar mission is also under consideration. Researchers will keep tabs on how these organisms live and develop on the lunar surface.

The static lander will carry a 3kg container with potato and arabidopsis plant seeds to perform a biological experiment. The launch of a Mars rover is planned for the mid-2020s. It is planning to launch construction of its own manned space station next year.