China sent a lunar Rover on the dark side of the moon

China first in the world launched a mission to land on the side of the moon. Start of automatic interplanetary station “Chang’e-4” on Board of the carrier rocket “Changzheng-3B” performed on December 8 at about 02:00 local time (7 Dec at 21:00 Moscow time) from the Xichang launch site (South-Western Sichuan province). If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft “Chang’e-4” will include the history, the world’s first landed on the far side of our satellite somewhere in the beginning of January next year.

Mission “Chang’e-4” consists of a stationary lander and lunar Rover, facing different research challenges, mainly aimed at the study by and large unexplored areas of the natural satellite of our planet.

The launch of the carrier rocket “Changzheng-3B” from the Xichang launch site 8 Dec 2018

There, where no one ever was

The moon is in tidal capture of our planet. In other words, the satellite takes almost the same amount of time to complete one revolution around its axis and around our planet. So from Earth we always see only one side of our cosmic neighbor, that is, so-called, near. The far side of the satellite is always out of our view. That is why this mission is for all of so much interest.

At the same time being on the side of the moon will hinder communication between Earth and the lander and Rover is the Moon solid, direct signals are blocked.

View of the back side of the moon and Earth on its background (upper left of the photo). Photograph obtained during a space mission “Chang’e-5Т1” service module in 2014

To solve China in may this year launched an orbital satellite”, Zhuazao”. It is located behind the Moon at Lagrange point L2, and will act as a relay, sending and receiving information from the spacecraft “Chang’e-4” and Ground.

Most likely, the signals will come from the bottom of the carriage Pocket – 186-kilometer hole in the lunar surface, where expected network module and lunar Rover. The crater is part of the basin South pole — Aitken, one of the largest impact formations in the Solar system. From edge to edge its length is 2,500 kilometers.

UTU Chinese lunar Rover photographed the lander “Chang’e 3” in December 2013

A lot of new scientific data

In the mission “Chang’e-4” will incorporate a whole set of scientific tools. The lander is equipped with cameras Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), spectrometer in the low frequencies (LFS), as well as neutron dosimeter (LND) provided by Germany. The Rover has a panoramic camera (PCAM) penetrating radar (LPR) spectrometer in the visible and near-infrared (VNIS), and a compact analyzer uncharged particles (ASAN), presented by Swedish scientists.

All of this equipment will allow you to “Chang’e-4” to examine the environment of the surrounding space. For example, the spectrometer in the low frequencies (LFS) will enable you to see the information on the composition of the lunar surface on the back side of the satellite, and by using penetrating radar (LPR), scientists can learn more about the layered structure of the surface. This information will help to better understand how the reverse side of the moon different from the one that is always directed to the Ground. For example, a huge basaltic plain called lunar seas, are more common on the near side of the satellite, but virtually absent on its far side. By the way, don’t call back “dark side”. Actually it gets as much sunlight, how much and near.

“Chang’e-4” also expects some radio astronomy work could not have come at a absence on the back of the radio interference from Earth. Orbital satellite “, Zhuazao” also collects astronomical data, using for this purpose the instrument Low-Frequency Explorer, which is a joint development of the Netherlands and China.

Using the lander is also planned to conduct a biological experiment. On Board the spacecraft is a small closed ecosystem, which contains the eggs of the silkworm and seeds of tomato and Arabidopsis. Scientists want to check whether these organisms survive and grow on the lunar surface.

Shot to the moon

Start the mission “Chang’e-4”

Mission “Chang’e-4” is part of a larger Chinese program for lunar exploration. In 2007 and 2010, the country sent to the lunar orbit the spacecraft “Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2”. In December 2013, on the surface of the proximal side of the satellite landed the lander “Chang’e-3” lunar Rover and the UTU. “Chang’e-4” was originally developed as a back-up of the mission, but after the partial success of “Chang’e-3” was decided to launch it as a separate mission.

In October 2014, China launched a mission “Chang’e-5Т1” in which to fly around the moon was sent to the test machine, returning back to Earth after 8 days.

Also preparing the mission “Chang’e-5”. In its course it is planned to collect samples of the lunar surface on a near side of the satellite and return them to Earth. Is currently under development. To start it was planned in 2017, but decided to postpone to 2019.

According to earlier statements by Chinese officials, the country also plans to conduct manned missions to the moon, however, the timing of these missions are still unclear. Most likely, it will be soon. With regards to the manned program, China is now focused on the development and launch of new near-earth orbital space station, the launch of which is scheduled for early 2020-ies.

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