China read­ies for mis­sion to dark side of moon

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - WORLD NEWS - Christo­pher Bodeen

bei­JiNG — china was pre­par­ing to launch a ground-break­ing mis­sion early Satur­day 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 u.S.

With its chang ’e 4 mis­sion, china hopes to be the first coun­try to ever suc­cess­fully un­der­take 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 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.

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 manned 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 Poleaitken basin’s Von Kar­man crater fol­low­ing a 27-day jour­ney.

it will also per­form ra­dio-as­tro­nom­i­cal stud­ies that, be­cause the far side al­ways faces away from earth, will be “free from in­ter­fer­ence from our planet’s iono­sphere, hu­man-made ra­dio fre­quen­cies and au­ro­ral ra­di­a­tion noise,” space in­dus­try ex­pert leonard david wrote on the web­site Space.com.

it may also carry plant seeds and silk­worm eggs, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News agency.

chang’e is the god­dess of the moon in chi­nese mythol­ogy.

china con­ducted its first crewed space mis­sion in 2003, mak­ing it only the third coun­try af­ter rus­sia and the u.S. to do so. it has put a pair of space sta­tions into or­bit, one of which is still op­er­at­ing as a pre­cur­sor to a more than 54-tonne sta­tion that is due to come on­line in 2022. the launch of a mars rover is planned for the mid-2020s.

to fa­cil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween con­trollers on earth and the chang ’e 4 mis­sion, china in may launched a re­lay satel­lite named Que­qiao, or mag­pie bridge, af­ter an an­cient chi­nese folk tale.

Getty im­aGes files

The moon is seen dur­ing a lu­nar eclipse on Jan­uary 31, 2018. China is launch­ing a mis­sion to ex­plore the far side of the moon.

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