China sent a lunar Rover to the back of the moon

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China was the first in the world to launch a landing mission on the back of the moon. The launch of the Chang’e-4 automatic interplanetary station on Board the Changzheng-3B launch vehicle was carried out on 8 December at approximately 02:00 local time (7 December at 21:00 Moscow time) from the Sichang cosmodrome (southwestern Sichuan province). If all goes according to plan, the devices “Chang’e-4” will go down in history, the first in the world landed on the far side of our satellite somewhere in early January next year.

The mission of “Chang’e-4” consists of a stationary landing module, as well as a lunar Rover, facing various scientific tasks, mainly aimed at the study of largely unexplored areas of the natural satellite of our planet.

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The launch of the carrier rocket “Changzheng-3B” from the Xichang launch site 8 Dec 2018

Where no one has ever been

The moon is in the tidal capture of our planet. In other words, the satellite takes almost the same amount of time to make one revolution around its axis and around our planet. Therefore, from the Earth we always observe only one side of our cosmic neighbor, that is, the so-called neighbor. The far side of the satellite is always out of our sight. That is why this mission is of such great interest to all.

At the same time, being on the back of the moon will make it difficult to communicate between the Earth and the lander and the Rover – Moon solid, direct signals will be blocked.

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View of the back side of the moon and the Earth on its background (upper left part of the picture). Photograph obtained during a space mission “Chang’e-5Т1” service module in 2014

To solve China in may this year launched an orbital satellite”, Zhuazao”. It is located behind the Moon at Lagrange point L2, and will act as a relay, sending and receiving information from the spacecraft

“Chang’e-4” and Ground.

Most likely, the signals will come from the bottom of the coach Pocket – 186-kilometer hole on the lunar surface, where according to expectations, should the network module and the lunar Rover. The crater is part of the South pole basin — Aitken – one of the largest impact formations in the Solar system. From the edge to the edge of its length is 2500 kilometers.

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Chinese lunar Rover Yutu, photographed by the landing module “Chang’e-3” in December 2013

Lots of new scientific data

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Within the framework of the mission “Chang’e-4” it is planned to use a whole set of scientific tools. The lander is equipped with cameras Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), spectrometer in the low frequencies (LFS), as well as neutron dosimeter (LND) provided by Germany. The lunar Rover has a panoramic camera (PCAM), penetrating radar (LPR), visible and near infrared spectrometer (VNIS), and a compact uncharged particle analyzer (ASAN), presented by Swedish scientists.

All this equipment will allow “Chang’e-4” to study in detail the environment of the surrounding space. For example, a low-frequency spectrometer (LFS) will provide information about the composition of the lunar surface on the back of the satellite, and with the help of penetrating radar (LPR), scientists will be able to learn more about the layered structure of the surface. This information will help to better understand how the reverse side of the moon is different from the one that is always directed to the Earth. For example, huge basalt plains, called the lunar seas, are more common on the near side of the satellite, but are virtually absent on its far side. By the way, do not call the reverse side “dark side”. In fact, it receives as much sunlight as the near one.

“Chang’e-4” also expects some radio astronomy work-as cannot be incidentally will have the absence of on the reverse of side radio interference with Land. Orbital satellite “, Zhuazao” also collects astronomical data, using for this purpose the instrument Low-Frequency Explorer, which is a joint development of the Netherlands and China.

A biological experiment is also planned with the help of the lander. On Board the device is a small closed ecosystem, which contains silkworm eggs and seeds of tomatoes and Arabidopsis. Scientists want to test whether these organisms can survive and develop on the lunar surface.

Throw to the moon

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The Chang’e-4 mission is part of a larger Chinese lunar exploration program. In 2007 and 2010, the country sent the Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2 spacecraft to the lunar orbit. In December 2013, the Chang’e-3 lander and the Yutu Lunokhod landed on the surface of the near side of the satellite. Chang’e-4 was originally designed as a backup mission, but after the partial success of Chang’e-3, it was decided to launch it as a separate mission.

In October 2014, China launched the Chang’e-5T1 mission, during which a test vehicle was sent to fly around the moon, returning to Earth 8 days later.

The Chang’e-5 mission is also being prepared. In its course, it is planned to collect samples of the lunar surface on the near side of the satellite and return them to Earth. It is currently under development. It was planned to launch it in 2017, but decided to postpone it to 2019.

According to earlier statements by Chinese officials, the country also plans to conduct manned missions to the moon, but the timing of these missions remains unclear. Most likely, it will not be soon. With regard to the manned program, China is now focused on the development and launch of a new near-earth orbital space station, which is scheduled to begin operation in the early 2020s.

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Updated: December 8, 2018 — 11:53 pm

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