China launched its Chang’e-4 moon mission aboard the Long March 3B launch vehicle to reach the far side of the moon for the first time, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province in southwestern China. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for China’s space program, announced the launch. The completion of this mission will make China the first country to make a soft landing. Chang’e is the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.
Chang’e 4 is a lander-rover combination that will arrive at the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater following a 27-day journey. It has a combined mass of just under 4 metric tons, and carries cameras and science payloads to analyse the lunar surface geology. Among the cameras, it sports the Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN) which is a contribution from Sweden.
It will perform radio-astronomical studies exploring both above and below the lunar surface and would plant a flag for humanity in a region that remains largely unexplored to date. Furthermore, to enable communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 mission, China in May 2018 launched a relay satellite named Queqiao, or “Magpie Bridge,” after an ancient Chinese folk tale.
The 186-kilometer-diameter Von Kármán crater, is situated in the South Pole-Aitken Basin (SPA), a 2,500-kilometerwide, 12-kilometer-deep ancient impact crater. The moon’s far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown.