China Prepares to Land Space Craft to the Dark Side of the Moon
China National Space Administration plans to launch an exploration to the dark side of the moon. Chinese experts expect that the Chang'e-4 (CE-4) prove will successfully land at the Von Kármán crater at a 50-50 probability. The assumed landing site is a 186-kilometer-wide crater which is part of the South Pole of the moon.
The mission's launch date is not yet certain but according to rumors, it is scheduled to leave the earth on December 8. The CE-4 is expected to explore the moon's many far-side craters. It is also tasked to perform radio astronomy experiments. Chinese scientist also plans to determine whether plants can grow in the moon's gravity. One of the difficulties in exploring the far side is radio signal transmission back to earth since it is blocked by the moon and the earth's atmosphere. To resolve the issue, China launched a communications satellite, Queqiao, in May.
China started the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program back in 2004. Since the start of the program, two unmanned orbiting probes were sent to the moon. The probes are Chng'e-1 and Chng'e-2. The Chang'e-3 was also sent to land on the surface of the moon in 2013. China's Chng'e-3 is known as the first spacecraft to land on the moon after the Soviet Union's return mission in 1976. The Chng'e-3 rover, however, lost its roving capability after a month.
China is also planning to send another exploration in 2019 which will attempt to bring lunar samples back to earth. U.S., India, Japan, and Russia also announced their plans to send their own explorations. It is also expected that in 2019, Google's Lunar XPrize contestants will send their first private moon landing.
According to Carolyn van der Bogert, a planetary geologist at Westfälische Wilhelms University in Münster, Germany, China's mission is definitely a significant and important accomplishment in lunar exploration.
China National Space Administration (CNSA) said that their ultimate goal is to build a moon base for future human exploration.
According to Bo Wu, a geo-informatician at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the landing site is a key area that may answer several important questions about the early history of the moon that includes its internal structure and thermal evolution.
The CE-4's main goal is to map the region that surrounds the site, determine the structure of the subsurface layers using ground penetrating radar, and get data of the mineral composition at the surface using a near and infrared spectrometer. The information gathered from the exploration is expected to help geologists understand how the Moon evolved.