In a ground breaking mission and first of its kind, China has launched a spacecraft on the largely unexplored far side of the moon.
A Long March 3B rocket carrying a lunar probe blasted off at 2.23am on Saturday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province in southwestern China, reports said.
The moon’s far side, which is also known as the dark side, has always remained unknown. It has a different composition than sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.
The mission if successful would give the Chinese space program a leading position in lunar exploration. China is also planning to send its Chang’e 5 probe to Moon 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 Karman crater following a 27-day journey. It is reported that it will also perform radio-astronomical studies. It may also carry plant seeds and silkworm eggs, according to Xinhua.
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.