China will launch Saturday a rocket to the Moon, carrying a lander and a rover. It will attempt to land on the Moon’s far side, the region that always faces away from Earth.
No other nation did this. In 2013, China entered the elite group of three countries that have landed a spacecraft softly on the surface of the Moon, putting a lander and a rover on the Moon. Prior, the country had put a spacecraft in lunar orbit and had also crashed a vehicle into the lunar dirt. Landing on the far side of the Moon is a difficult task. It’s not in a direct line with Earth. To land on the far side of the Moon requires to have in place, near Moon, a probe that can relay communications from the lander to Earth. In May, the China National Space Administration launched a satellite called Queqiao, specifically for the purpose of aiding with communications for the upcoming Chang’e-4 mission. Queqiao will stay facing the far side of the Moon, allowing communication between the spacecraft and Earth using a large curved antenna. It seems that the South Pole-Aitken basin of Moon is targeted in this Chinese space mission.
Because of its potential to tell us about our history, the South Pole-Aitken basin has long been a priority target of study. The Chang’e-4 rover will be carrying ground-penetrating radar to figure out what the structure of the Moon is like underneath the surface of the basin. The lander will be studying the space environment and the Universe. Following this mission, China plans to launch another robotic mission to the Moon next year called Chang’e-5, which is designed to return samples from the nearside of the Moon. In the more distant future, years away, it’s possible that China hopes to put people on the Moon.