Chinese rover aims for dark side of the moon

China launches pioneering mission to far side of moon

The landing site will be the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The launch of Chang'e-4 rover shows China's growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russian Federation and the European Union in the space domain.

Heading to a rugged, little-explored land populated with high mountains and one of the largest craters in the Solar System is China's Chang'e 4 spacecraft.

Because the far side of the moon is free from interference from radio frequencies, the mission requires a relay satellite to transmit signals to the lander and the rover.

Originally, the Chang'e-4 was a backup vessel for the preceding lunar mission, carried out by the Chang'e-3.

No lander or rover has ever touched the surface there, positioning China as the first nation to explore the area. Three different scientific and technological experiments loaded aboard the probe by Universities in China will be performed during the mission.

Chang'e-4 will be looking into low-frequency radio astronomical observations, detect mineral compositions, measure neutron radiation and survey the terrain and its landforms according to the statement of the China National Space Administration quoted by Xinhua.

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The experiments also involve planting potato and other seeds, according to Chinese media reports.

The Chang'e 4 mission is a step in that direction, significant for the engineering expertise needed to explore and settle the moon, McDowell said.

This will be the first time humans have tried to grow plants and raise insects on the Moon.

"The main thing about this mission is not science, this is a technology mission", he said. The rover's instruments must withstand those fluctuations and it must generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night.

The rover's successful launch follows the May 2018 launch of the Queqiao ('Magpie Bridge") communications satellite into lunar orbit for relaying data and communications between Earth and the moon's far side, as there is no "line of sight' for direct communications. The vehicle is created to explore the moon surface and moon rocks to analyze.

Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang'e-5, next year to collect samples and bring them back to earth.

The mission is one of a series of lofty ambitions for China's military-led space program, including a super-heavy lift vehicle of greater payload capacity than SpaceX and NASA's, a reusable launch vehicle by 2021, a Mars rover, a permanently crewed space station and a moon base.

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