China aims for first landing on the dark side of the Moon
China is preparing to launch a groundbreaking mission to soft-land a spacecraft on the largely unexplored far side of the Moon, demonstrating its growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russia, the European Union and the US.
With its Chang’e 4 mission, China hopes to be the first country to successfully complete such a landing.
The Moon’s far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.
If successful, the mission scheduled to blast off today aboard a Long March 3B rocket will propel the Chinese space program to a leading position in one of the most important areas of lunar exploration.
The flight will take 27 days. China landed its Yutu, or Jade Rabbit rover, on the Moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe there next year and have it return to Earth with samples — the first time that will have been done since 1976. A crewed lunar mission is also under consideration.
Chang’e 4 is also a lander-rover combination and will explore both above and below the lunar surface after arriving at the South Pole-Aitken Basin’s 2500km Von Karman crater.
Chang’e is the goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology.