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China is going into the lunar darkness


The Earth has never been enough for us. The man’s curiosity goes far behind the spatial limits of our planet, it goes deep into the outer space.

Sure, curiosity is not the only thing that drives the human kind, but the important thing is that giving up has never been an option. We can see that in the example of an upcoming mission that China is working on right now.

As a matter of fact, the Chinese are about to conquer the dark side of the Moon, which is a kind of mission that no one has ever tried to execute before.

As Wu Weiren, a chief lunar exploration engineer on the Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) said, China will use the Chang’e-4 probe and a rover for the purposes of this mission.

Unlike all lunar missions ever conducted, when different countries managed to land their probes on the side of the Moon facing the Earth, Chinese Chang’e-4 is meant to land on the opposite side. This mission would be beneficial to understanding of the Moon, and even though it is going to be challenging, information collected by the Chang’e-3, a predecessor of Chang’e 4, is already of a big help. At this moment, Chang’e-3 probe is exploring the Moon’s Mare Imbrium.

Now, as Ye Peijian, a designer and commander of the China’s lunar program mentioned, it is time for the Chang’e-4 probe to conduct a more complex mission and provide us with a different insight into the Moon’s nature.

The benefits of the mission

The forthcoming mission is demanding, challenging and requires significant investments. However, China will benefit from it. First of all, this lunar achievement will grant China a title “first” – every country wants to be the first at something, especially when it comes to important discoveries. At the same time, China will be able to demonstrate its amazing technical capabilities.

Besides that, this could be a huge step forward, scientifically speaking.

There is a gigantic crater on the far side of the Moon. It is called the South Pole–Aitken basin, and it was formed after the impact between the Moon and other celestial body. Exploration of this part of the Moon is very important because the impact ripped off a piece of Moon’s surface layer, leaving behind a crater suitable for collecting information about inside layers of the Moon.

In addition to that, NASA officially recommends exploration of this location, and states that in its 2013-2022 Decadal Survey.

This mission consists of three steps: “around”, “down” and “return”, and the first, experimental step has already been completed in October last year, when a capsule was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China, made a circle around the Moon and returned back. Scientists used this mission as an opportunity to conduct all necessary tests.

The launch of the Chang’e-4 is scheduled for the year of 2020, but in the meantime, China is planning on sending another probe, Chang’e-5, during 2017, to land on the Moon and collect samples and bring them to the Earth for examining.

The Chinese will launch Chang’e-5 from the Chinese province of Hainan, with the help of the largest rocket they have at their disposal – a Long March 5 rocket.

Conquering the far side of the Moon is not the only Chinese goal. There is Mars, waiting in line. The mission to Mars is expected to start in 2020, but the sample return stage is scheduled for 2030.

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