Chi­nese space­craft is aim­ing for the dark side of the moon

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Our For­eign Staff

CHINA last night launched a space­craft that will soft-land 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 United States.

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 that blasted off aboard a Long March 3B rocket will pro­pel the Chi­nese space pro­gramme 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. It 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 Von Kár­mán 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,” Leonard David, a space in­dus­try ex­pert, wrote on Space.com.

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

China con­ducted its first crewed space mis­sion in 2003, mak­ing it only the third coun­try af­ter Rus­sia and the US to do so. Chang’e is the god­dess of the moon in Chi­nese mythol­ogy.

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