China has launched an exploration ship that plans to land on the dark side of the moon, a worldwide initiative to bolster Beijing's space ambitions.
The vehicle, named Chang & # 39; e-4 – named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology – departed for a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang launch center in southwest China on Saturday in 2H23. (18:23 GMT GMT), according to the official Xinhua news agency.
It is the beginning of a long journey for the Chinese ship, which must land near the New Year, in order to travel through this still unexplored part of the Moon and conduct scientific research.
Unlike the visible face of the Earth, no probe or scan module has reached the surface on the other side.
This face is hilly and rugged, dotted with craters, while the most visible side has several flat surfaces to land.
In 1959, the Soviets took the first images of the hidden face of the moon.
Chang-e-4 will be "the first probe of mankind to land on the hidden side of the Moon and exploit it"The mission chief, He Rongwei, quoted by the Global Times newspaper, has published in Chinese and English." This mission is also the most important space exploration project in the world in 2018, "he said.
"For 10 or 20 years, China has systematically followed the steps the United States and the Soviet Union took in space exploration in the 1960s and 1970s," said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysics Center. This is "one of the first times that the Chinese realize something that nobody has done yet".
China has been preparing for years for this particularly difficult operation from the technological point of view.
One of the biggest challenges is communicating with the lunar robot. As the dark face of the Moon is oriented in the opposite direction of the Earth, there is no direct "line of sight" to transmit signals.
China is now expected to take this technical step and to this end launched a satellite called Queqiao, positioned in lunar orbit to transmit orders and data exchanged between Earth and the module.