China has successfully placed its Chang’e-4 spacecraft onto the surface of the far side of the Moon. It appears that the rover has also been released. This is the first time that any spacecraft has landed on the lunar far side.
The craft landed in the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. and is able to communicate with earth using the Queqiao relay satellite, which was launched in May of 2018. The mission will look for clues to the geologic structure and history of the Moon: Chang’e-4 spacecraft – Science Magazine –
Chang’e-4 was launched on 8 December 2018 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province. The landing site is in the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. The basin was likely formed by a giant asteroid impact that might have brought material from the moon’s upper mantle to the surface; studying samples taken there might offer scientists the chance to learn more about the composition of the body’s interior. The moon’s far side has a much thicker, older crust and is pockmarked by more and deeper craters than the near side, where large dark plains called maria, formed by ancient lava flows, have erased much of the cratering. Chang’e-4’s observations could give clues to the processes behind the differences.
And there are also instruments to carry out astronomical, solar, and biological research:
The lander carries cameras for observations of the terrain and a low-frequency spectrometer to study solar bursts. The rover has a panoramic camera, a spectrometer for identifying surface materials, and a ground-penetrating radar to probe subsurface structures. Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia contributed payloads that will measure radiation and use low-frequency radio astronomy to listen for faint signals lingering in the cosmos since the formation of the universe’s first stars, among other things. The lander also carries a minuscule biosphere developed by Chinese universities that will study the low-gravity interaction of a number of plants and silkworms.
This video shows various aspects of the Chang’e’4 mission with a mix of animations and real imagery:
The lander has a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) that will provide power for a mission that aims to last at least three months. A RTG is needed to keep the lander alive and active during the 2-week long cold nights when no solar power is available.
More about Chang’e-4:
- Breathtaking 12 minutes for Chang’e-4’s landing – Xinhua | English.news.cn
- Chang’e-4 returns first images from lunar farside following historic landing – SpaceNews.com
- China successfully lands Chang’e-4 on far side of Moon | The Planetary Society
- Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin – LeonardDavid.com
- China makes history by landing on the far side of the Moon | Ars Technica
- China’s Chang’e-4 is in position for the first-ever landing on the moon’s far side — Quartz