China's latest lunar mission will drop a lander and robbery in one of the oldest terrain on the moon and become the first handbag to deliberately land and explore the farce.
A long March-3B rocket is lifted at. 18:23 Universal Time (UT) from Xichang Space Center in southwest China with Chang 4 on the way to a first soft landing on the moon's side. Named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang 4 is the latest mission in China's Moon Surveillance Program.
There is a reason why no mission is landed on the farmer's moon (although some space hardware is crashed there). The moon is locked early in relation to the Earth, which means that it holds about a hemisphere facing us as it circles and you turn away forever. Synthetic communication between mobile phone and earth is not possible. To solve this, China launched the Queqiao mission to lead a lissebur (halo) lane around the moon's L2 Lagrange point early this year, leading up to Chang 4, 37,300 miles (60,000 miles) beyond the moon for a dedicated relay.
Chang's 4 lands and rovers resemble China's Chang's 3 lands, landed in the edge of Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) in 2013 and exploited Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover. China's National Space Administration (CNSA) held a pupil competition to name Chang's 4 roves and lands, and we will probably hear the formal names every time they have successfully landed on the Moon's mobile phone. Chang 4 supports upgraded instruments based on the successful Chang's 3 mission, including cameras and instruments that allow for the study of surface geology, moon seismology and solar wind and its interaction with the moon's surface. China will also use Chang 4 to perform low-frequency radio astronomy and monitor cosmic rays from the radio-silent moon's side. A small study experiment on board Chang 4 contains silkworm eggs, the little flowering speech lime and potato frog in an attempt to study how they grow in the low-power moon.
The mission will now lead to a trans-lunar runway and will likely land on or around the first week of January 2019. Chang 4 is directed to the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin, a 1,550 mile (2,500 mile-kilometer) large pool between the moon's south pole and the Aitken crater. The top priority target is considered to be the 116 km long diameter (187 km) Von Kármán crater. It is likely that Chang's 4 landing will coincide with the moon's sunrise at Von Kármán, which will provide maximum duration of sun exposure during the first two weeks of operation. It would set the landing date on January 3, 2019.
Both rover and farmer have solar panels for daytime operation and operation with atomplutonium-238 heaters to keep their electronic components warm during the two-week lunar night.
Stories from (lunar) farside
We got our first good look at lunar farside on October 7, 1959, thanks to Soviet Luna 3 flyby mission. These first-grained images revealed a surprisingly different terrain than the known near-side of the Moon, which shows a kingdom that largely missed flat maria.
Why go to the moon's side? The landing point of Chang 4 is one of the oldest basins on the Moon, and may contain sections of exposed moon caps. Von Kármán crater offers one in the few relatively flat areas for a landing within far-reaching otherwise rugged terrain.
If successful, China will follow up on Chang 4 with an even more ambitious Chang's 5 sample return mission, launched sometime by the end of 2019. China rehearsed sampling operation with its Chang 5T1 Air Force and Earth Return Mission in 2014. The heavier test return mission requires China's new heavy lift rocket, the long March 5, which failed at its second launch last year.
China's space program is often a mystery, with information about successful launches and landings that were announced days later. A successful lunar farside landing would bring significant prestige to the ascendant Chinese space program and Chang's 4 mission will be one to see shortly after the coming New Year.