On Saturday, China launched its Chang'e-4 rover to the dark side of the Moon. The rover was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre and is expected to land on the lunar surface around the New Year.
If successful, Chang'e-4 will be the world's first moon mission to land on the dark side of the Moon, and China's second mission to land on lunar surface, after Yutu which successfully landed on Moon five years back.
"Chang'e-4 is humanity's first probe to land on and explore the far side of the moon," said the mission's chief commander He Rongwei of China Aerospace Science and Technology Co.
The Moon's dark side is a highly challenging site for any landing mission. This mountainous and rugged side is never visible from the Earth. It remains relatively unknown as no lander has ever touched that part of the Moon's surface. In contrast, the near-side of the moon always faces the Earth and offers many flat areas to lunar spacecraft to touch down on.
As the dark side of Moon is never visible from the Earth, establishing a communication link between the lander and the ground staff was a big challenge for the Chinese space agency. To solve this problem, Chinese space agency launched the Queqiao satellite in May. Queqiiao is now orbiting the Moon and will help establish a communication link between the lander and ground staff.
According to AFP, the rover will land on the Aitken Basin in the lunar South Pole region, a highly complex terrain. It carries 10 scientific experiments on board, including low-frequency radio astronomical experiments, mineral and radiation tests, and planting seeds on the lunar surface.
The launch of Chang'e-4 rover shows China's growing ambitions to rival the U.S., Russia and the European Union in the space domain. Over the past few years, China has invested huge money in its space programmes, with hopes of sending crewed missions to the Moon and also establishing a manned space station by 2022.
The Chinese space agency is also planning to launch another lunar lander next year, which will collect soil samples from Moon's surface and bring them back to earth.
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