Chang'e 4 spacecraft. Credit: BGR
China’s space agency start off 2019 by landing the Chang’e 4 spacecraft to the Moon, and it’ll be a major “first” for the country.
They are anticipating the landing of the Chang’e 4 sometime between January 1st and 3rd, and the mission has been a long time in the making.
Several months ago China launched relay satellites that will allow the Chang’e 4 to communicate with its handlers back on Earth. The lander is also equipped with a rover which will explore the lunar surface to a limited extent.
The mission is groundbreaking for a number of reasons but the most notable is that it’ll be the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon, and China’s second Moon landing overall. As China prepares for the touchdown, Chang’e 4’s engineers have been busy testing various systems, including the communications link that will play a vital role in ensuring that the mission is a success.
The Chang’e 4 is very similar to the Chang’e 3, which was China’s very first Moon landing success, and its successor is actually a backup version of the previous model that has been modified to carry out new mission objectives. As the South China Morning Post
reports, the new rover will study the lunar surface composition as well as study the terrain.
Looking forward, the eventual Chang’e 5 is being planned as the grande finale for China’s push to the Moon, and the spacecraft that makes that trip will not only land on the Moon like its predecessors but also return to Earth with samples of the lunar surface.