China's lunar probe Chang'e-4 is in position to land on the dark side of the Moon, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.
The spacecraft was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan on 7th December, and is expected to land on Moon's far side between 2nd and 3rd January. A successful landing will make Chang'e-4 the first ever spacecraft in history to land on the far side of the Moon.
Moon's far side is never visible from Earth. It is mountainous and rugged and a challenging site for any Moon landing mission. In comparison, the near-side of the Moon is always visible from the Earth, and offers several flat areas for lunar probes to touch down on.
According to the China National Space Administration, the orbit of the probe has been adjusted twice in the past few days. The mission control team has also tested the communications link, the imaging tools and probe's ranging detectors.
Chang'e-4 first entered the orbit around the Moon on 12 December. Later, on 30 December, it entered a stable elliptical lunar orbit, coming as close as 15 kilometres above the lunar surface.
The probe is communicating with Earth via the Queqiiao relay satellite, which was launched in May to enable communication between the ground controllers and the Chang'e-4 probe.
Queqiiao satellite is currently stationed in an operational orbit about 64,800 kilometres beyond the Moon.
Chang'e-4 is expected to attempt a 'soft-landing' on Aitken Basin's Von Karman crater, which is about 24,000 kilometres across and 13 kilometres deep. Chinese scientists believe spacecraft's landing on this huge crater would enable them to collect some new information about the Moon's mantle, the layer below the surface.
The probe includes a lander and a rover to explore the lunar surface. It will survey the terrain and mineral composition and will also measure the neutral atoms and neutron radiation to improve human understanding about the environment on the far side of the Moon.
China plans to launch another lunar lander next year, which will collect soil samples from the lunar surface and bring them back to earth.
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