China Plans Historic First Landing On Far Side Of The Moon

China’s space agency has announced plans to become the first to land on the far side of the moon, which is always hidden from us – a tricky task given that it is not possible to communicate directly with Earth from there. But if successful, the mission could shed light on many things we don’t know about the moon, such as what is going on deep beneath its thick crust.

Chang’e 4, scheduled for launch in late 2018, is the next phase of China’s exploration of the moon. It builds on the success of its Chang’e 3 lander, which touched down on the moon in December 2013 and successfully deployed a robotic rover named Yutu. Although Yutu found itself unable to move after its second night, it continued to provide data, leading to the discovery of a new type of moon rock.

There is no dark side

The reason we can’t see the far side of the moon is that our satellite rotates exactly once per orbit so as to keep that side hidden from view (see video below).

The far side is often wrongly described as the “dark side of the moon” – though it gets just as much sunshine as the near side. And it has now been mapped thoroughly from lunar orbit, although no mission (manned or unmanned) has ever landed there. The far side is not any harder to reach than the near side; the problem is that, with the Earth permanently out of view, direct radio transmission to and from spacecraft is impossible there.

Lagrange points

China’s solution to this dilemma is to deploy a relay satellite that will be able to see both the lander and the Earth at the same time. Rather than —> Read More