A China rocket carrying unique payload successfully launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. On board is a lander which will soon make history by touching down on the far side of the Moon, if all goes smoothly.
The lander: Chang’e 4
The Chang’e 4 lunar lander is scheduled to land near the Moon’s southern pole in a giant plain called the Von Kármán crater. Its mission will be to explore the composition of the lunar surface.
Scientists will study the data it collects in order to see how it compares to samples from the near side of the Moon.
Chang’e-4 is actually made from the backup hardware for Chang’e-3, a nearly identical mission that launched the Yutu or “Jade Rabbit” rover along with a stationary probe to the moon in 2013.
More about this mission
It’s also carrying a 3 kg (6.6 lb) container of seeds and silkworm larvae to study whether they can grow on the surface of the Moon — an experiment that could have long-term implications for a lunar colony.
The moon mission will also see if the area is appropriate to build a powerful deep-space radio telescope or maybe a base.
The unseen side of the Moon
Since the Moon spins around the same center of rotation as Earth, it’s always facing away from us.
Space programs have taken pictures of the so-called dark side of the Moon before, but we’ve never had a chance to get an up-close look. The far side is a far more rugged and mountainous surface than the well-studied near side of the Moon.
Good luck, Chang’e 4!