A Chinese spacecraft is heading toward the moon on a historic mission.
The rocket, launched Saturday, is carrying a probe to make the first soft landing on the other side of the moon, the Chinese state news agency reported. Xinhua News Agency.
While other spacecraft have explored the distant side of the moon from afar, the soft landing will allow a more detailed study of the lunar surface. The probe must land in early January.
If you are tempted to make a Pink Floyd joke, remember this: "The side of the Moon that we do not see from Earth receives both the sunlight and the side we see. In fact, the only dark side of the Moon Earth is the side that is pointed away from the Sun at any moment, "NASA says.
Dark or not, exploring the other side of the moon comes with its own challenges. On one hand, the moon will block direct communication between the probe and the Earth's researchers. To circumvent this, China has launched a retransmission satellite in May that will allow the probe to remain in contact with the scientists. Citing the National Space Administration of China, Xinhua explained the objectives of this current mission:
The scientific tasks of the Chang-e-4 mission include low-frequency radio-astronomical observation, topographic and terrestrial surveys, detection of mineral composition and surface structure of the lunar surface, and measurement of neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment in the background. side of the moon.
These measurements will be easier to make from the moon because it will act as a giant shield against electromagnetic interference from Earth. Smithsonian Magazine According to reports, there will also be a biological aspect to the research – worms, eggs and potato seeds are on board for studies on respiration and photosynthesis.
If the mission succeeds, China plans to launch a fifth mission next year, which will collect samples from the Moon's surface and bring them back to Earth.