China's 'Dark Side' Lunar Lander Has Entered the Moon's Orbit--What's Next?

Friday, 14 December 2018 - 11:43AM
Space
Solar System
Moon
Friday, 14 December 2018 - 11:43AM
China's 'Dark Side' Lunar Lander Has Entered the Moon's Orbit--What's Next?
< >
Pixabay
We've been reporting on China's Chang'e-4 mission since it was announced, but Wednesday marks a major milestone for the project: the lander-rover combo has successfully entered lunar orbit. It's not clear exactly when it will make its descent to the lunar surface, but it's estimated that Chang'e-4 will touch down on the South Pole-Aitken Basin in early 2019. The most probable landing site is the Von Kármán crater.

This will be the first mission to land on the 'dark' side of the Moon (which actually receives the same amount of sunlight as the 'light' side), and will have some unique scientific goals. According to SpaceNews.com: "The lander and rover are equipped with cameras and science payloads to analyze the lunar surface geology and subsurface, solar wind interactions and carry out low-frequency radio observations in the unique radio-quiet environment on the far side of the moon."

One of the major targets for investigation will be the geology of the Moon. Because the South Pole-Aitken Basin is actually a massive impact crater (about 2,500-kilometers wide and 12 kilometers deep), the site has the potential to reveal parts of the Moon's inner composition, which were exposed by the ancient collision. By studying the interior of the Moon, Chinese scientists might be able to gain insights into how it formed—a question that's plagued the scientific community for decades

In addition, the Chang'e-4 lander is carrying a special payload: silkworms, potatoes, and arabidopsis seeds. The three will be used to create a simple ecosystem inside a container aboard the lander and find out more about the challenges of cultivating larger ecosystems on the Moon. In case you haven't seen The Martian (or heard nerds raving about it), potatoes may become one of the key crops for lunar and Martian colonists...though we may be dealing with bigger problems when it comes to settling Mars.

Science
Science News
Space
Solar System
Moon
No