China launches pioneering mission to far side of moon

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Prior to this, no other mission launched to the far side because there is no direct line of sight between Earth and that part of Moon.

But the key difference this time is Chang'e 3 landed on the moon's nearside that always faces Earth.

"With a radio telescope on the far side of the moon, we would be able to explore the furthest and oldest objects in the universe like never before".

The moon is tidally locked to Earth, meaning the natural satellite takes about the same amount of time to spin once on its axis as it does to orbit our planet.

There's been little news out of China on the mission since then and it's not clear whether the launch will be televised anywhere.

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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.

If the Chang'e mission is successful China will become the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. The spacecraft will be carrying a lander and a rover, that is said to touch down the surface on the lunar surface.

Although located near the moon's south pole, Chang'e 4's target crater is still subjected to extreme temperature changes as the moon rotates once every 28 days.

The CE-4's main goal is to map the region that surrounds the site, determine the structure of the subsurface layers using ground penetrating radar, and get data of the mineral composition at the surface using a near and infrared spectrometer.

A mission to the lunar surface can also allow scientists to use the Moon as an observation post for the Earth and sun, while its distance from home means radio astronomy can be performed without interference from terrestrial broadcasts, The Guardian noted.

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The mission will also characterise the "radio environment" on the far side, a test created to lay the groundwork for the creation of future radio astronomy telescopes on the far side, which is shielded from the radio noise of Earth.

The landing mission was made possible by the May launch of the Queqiao relay satellite, which sits in a halo orbit past the Moon. Researchers will keep tabs on how these organisms live and develop on the lunar surface.

China also plans to land on and explore the southern and northern polar regions of the moon by 2030 and set up a lunar scientific research station, an official from the China National Space Administration told the China Daily.

Besides, the CNAS is also planning to launch the Chang'e-5 next year.

China has focused its space efforts on the Moon since its space program was initiated in 2004.

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"The design of the Chang'e 4 lunar rover has been improved based on the previous one, meaning it could work for at least a few years on the moon", Wu Weiren, chief designer of the CLEP, said in August.

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