A probe and a robotic jeep took off Friday (US time) from China's Xichang space center, kicking off a journey through space that will culminate in an attempt in early January to land on the other side of the moon for the first time .
The Chang & # 39; 4 mission – the fourth on China's main line of lunar explorers – took off around 1823 GMT (1:23 pm EST) on Friday in Xichang, a spaceport located between hills in Sichuan province, southwest of China.
Chang and 4 climbed into the night sky in Xichang – the takeoff occurred at 2:23 am Saturday – heading east, pinned to the top of a Long March 3B rocket.
Chinese state television did not broadcast the live release as it did for the previous launch of China's lunar mission in 2013, but viewers near Xichang broadcast live blastoff video in the middle of the night online without comment. The video showed Long March 3B disappearing into the night sky a few minutes after Xichang's seemingly smooth takeoff.
The three-stage 3B Long March rocket was programmed to inject the Chang & 4; 4 spacecraft in a path toward the moon, less than half an hour after takeoff.
Chang and 4 are expected to enter lunar orbit later this month, and use brake rockets to descend to the surface of the moon, targeting a landing at the Von Karman crater in the southern region of the South Pole-Aitken basin at early January.
No mission has explored the surface of the other side of the moon before, and if successful, Chang & # 39; and 4 will be the first major in space exploration, reaching a destination that has long been on the task list for NASA and space International. scientists.
Chang & 4; and 4 uses back-up hardware built for China's Lunar and Changing Lunar Module and 3 Lunar and Rover, which arrived on the Moon in December 2013 with a twist on the Mare Imbrium volcanic basin on the nearest side of the moon.
The rover stopped driving a few weeks after landing, but some of the spacecraft's instruments continued to function. The Chang-e 3 rover, called Yutu and designed to travel 10 kilometers, traveled about 114 meters before losing its mobility, according to Chinese scientists.
"There are many successful missions with successful landings on the near side of the moon, including the Chang's and 3's at Mare Imbrium," said Jun Huang of the Institute of Planetary Sciences of the University of Geosciences of China in a presentation to American scientists. March at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas. "This mission lasted almost five years and greatly increased our knowledge about the Moon, however, we have not (until Chang & # 39; and 4) a dedicated mission to take accurate measurements from the other side of the moon."
There are some fundamental differences between Chang's and 3's and Chang's and 4's. For example, the landing module for the other side of the moon will not have a robotic arm or an Active Particle X-ray Spectrometer, an instrument able to measure the chemical elements in lunar and solo rocks.
In addition to a set of cameras in both the stationary lander and the rover, the mission aims to provide a new set of sensors for the lunar surface, some of which are provided by European scientists.
The landing module, which will make a rocket-propelled landing on the Moon as Chang & # 39; & 3, will carry a low frequency radio spectrometer developed by Chinese scientists for astrophysics research. A German neutron instrument and developed dosimetry will measure radiation levels at the Chang's landing site and 4, collecting data that may be useful in planning the human exploration of the lunar side, studying solar activity and measuring the water content underground in Von Karman crater.
The Chang & 4 rover will host a ground penetration radar to study geological layers buried beneath the landing site and a near-infrared visible and spectrometer to collect data on soil composition. Chinese authorities have approved the addition of a Swedish instrument to study the interaction between the solar wind and the lunar surface, which is not protected by an atmosphere of bombardment of charged particles originating in the sun.
Chang & # 39; and 4 will also deliver to the Moon a carrier designed by students containing potato seeds and silkworm eggs. University students and scientists will monitor the growth of organisms, which will be housed inside a chamber and fed with natural light and nutrients once on the lunar surface.
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