Chang’e-4, which includes a lander and rover, lifted off early Saturday morning from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province to explore the moon that always faces away from Earth, known as the ‘dark side of the moon’. After a journey of almost four weeks, Chang’e-4 is set to land on the Aitken Basin of the south pole region, one of the largest and deepest impact craters in the Solar System at around 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 12 kilometers deep.
Executive Director of the Chang’e-4 project, Zhang He, said, “The soft landing and exploration of the far side, which has never been done before, will result in first-hand information about the terrain and lunar soil components and other scientific data. It will help enrich our understanding of the moon and the universe.”
The dark side of the moon has a clean electromagnetic environment, according to Zou Yongliao, head of the moon and deep-space exploration department under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which makes it an ideal place for the study of low-frequency radio. According to the China National Space Administration, the probe includes the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment.
Astronomers believe the research will lead to new discoveries about solar eruptions, star formation and how galaxies evolve. The probe will also study the environment of the moon’s dark side, including landforms, mineral composition, surface structure, and radiation conditions.
The country’s first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, was launched in 2007, making China the fifth country to develop and launch a lunar probe on its own. Chang’e-2, launched in 2010, created a full lunar map with a resolution of 7 meters, as well as images of the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, with a resolution of 1.5 meters, showing the details of the proposed landing site of Chang’e-3. Chang’e-3, launched in 2013, was the first Chinese spacecraft to soft-land on and explore an extraterrestrial object.