China Launches The World's First-Ever Mission To The Dark Side Of The Moon This December With The Chang'e-4 Rover

Thursday, 16 August 2018 - 12:43PM
Space
Moon
Thursday, 16 August 2018 - 12:43PM
China Launches The World's First-Ever Mission To The Dark Side Of The Moon This December With The Chang'e-4 Rover
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Pixabay Composite
China is attempting the world's first-ever mission to the dark side of the Moon. We've known about China's newest lunar mission for a while, but they have finally issued an official confirmation: the Chang'e 4 mission is happening this December. Of course, "dark side" is a bit of a misnomer considering that it gets the same amount of sunlight as the Earth-facing side, but we digress.

To clarify, a "soft landing" is "the landing of a space vehicle on a celestial body or on Earth in such a way as to prevent damage or destruction of the vehicle." Simply put, it's the opposite of a crash landing. What makes a landing on the far side of the Moon especially difficult is that it's tougher to keep contact with the spacecraft, since, you know, there's an entire celestial body blocking the signals between the craft and mission control. To remedy this, a relay satellite (named "Queqiao") will be put into orbit to aid Chang'e 4 in landing and transmitting data back to Earth.

According to SpaceNews.com, the landing site has already been chosen: "The Chang'e-4 spacecraft will target a landing region within the South Pole-Aitken Basin, a vast impact crater of immense scientific interest, with potential landing areas previously identified in and around the Von Kármán crater." Interestingly, the rover's payload isn't restricted to cameras and instruments: it'll also be carrying potato seeds, silkworm eggs, and seeds for the flowering plant arabidopsis which will, hopefully, create a tiny ecosystem for scientists to study.

It's been announced that there will be a contest to name the rover (ending September 5th) but – like the naming contest for Queqiao – it's unlikely to be open to English-speakers... Which is probably for the best, considering the masterminds behind "Boaty McBoatface" are still out there.

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