Dark Side Of The Moon: Here’s Where China’s Chang’e 4 Mission Will Land On The Lunar Far Side

Jean-Claude CapraraShutterstock

With the first stage of the Chang’e 4 mission successfully deployed in May, China is now looking forward to the second phase of its historic enterprise.

As the Inquisitr previously reported, the nation launched the Queqiao relay satellite into the moon’s orbit and is currently prepping to ship off a rover-lander duo to the lunar far side. If everything goes as planned, this will become the first spacecraft to touch down on the dark side of the moon in the history of mankind.

But landing two vehicles on the side of the moon that never faces the Earth is no easy task, reports Space.com. Just like in the case of Japan’s Hayabusa-2 mission for which JAXA has recently designated several landing spots, per an Inquisitr report, finding the perfect touchdown location can make all the difference.

Which is why the Chang’e 4 rover and lander will be making their pioneering descent toward the moon’s south pole, aiming to land inside the Von Karman Crater within the South Pole-Aitken basin.

Von Karman Crater

The Von Karman Crater is a truly fascinating place. Recently described in a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the crater stretches for 115 miles (186 kilometers) across and is largely made up of a basaltic plain known as mare, created by violent volcanic eruptions in the moon’s distant past.

Led by Jun Huang of China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, the study explores the main characteristics of the Von Karman Crater, outlining the area’s geologic history “based on remote sensing data of the moon.”

For instance, the paper shows that the chosen landing site for the Chang’e 4 mission is brimming with ejecta materials coming from at least four secondary craters, namely Finsen, Von Karman L, Von Karman L’, and Antoniadi.

But these are not the only craters surrounding the Von Karman Crater. In fact, the landing region has a “complex geological history,” as revealed by the 3D detailed analysis conducted for the purpose of this study.

The research uncovered that the crater is strewn with “extensive sinuous ridges and troughs.” At the same time, the mare basalts that cover Von Karman are pockmarked with “various‐sized craters,” the scientists found out.

“Our study identified several targets of high scientific interests and proposes testable hypotheses for the Chang’e 4 mission,” setting the framework for the rover and the lander’s on-site explorations, Huang’s team wrote in the paper.

South Pole-Aitken Basin

The South Pole-Aitken Basin is equally enthralling. According to NASA, this structure “is one of the largest and oldest impact features in the solar system” and is the ideal place to search for clues about the moon’s past.

“It is the key area to answer several important questions about the Moon, including its internal structure and thermal evolution,” the authors wrote in their paper.

The basin is 1,553 miles wide (2,500 kilometers) and 8 miles (13 kilometers) deep — six times deeper than the Grand Canyon on Earth. This spectacular feature reveals the deepest parts of the moon’s crust, the Inquisitr reported in late May, when the Queqiao satellite braked near the lunar surface, before reaching the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the Earth-Moon system.

Science Instruments On Board The Chang’e 4 Rover-Lander Duo

When the rover and the lander make the trip to the far side of the moon in December, they won’t be going alone. The mission comes packed with science gear that will allow the two spacecraft to study the dark side of the moon both on a surface and a subsurface level.

On the list of science equipment journeying to the lunar far side are:

  • a landing camera, a terrain camera, and a panoramic camera mounted on the lander
  • a visible/near-infrared imaging spectrometer
  • two ground-penetrating radars that can peer under the moon’s crust to reveal the subsurface structure of the landing area
  • a low-frequency radio spectrometer, which will be pairing with a twin on board the Queqiao satellite for joint space-physics observations
  • a lunar neutron and radiation dose detector that gauges the amount of radiation present on the lunar far side at a surface level
  • a neutral atom detector, which will analyze the interaction between the charged particle flow coming from the sun, also known as the solar wind, and the materials lying on the moon’s surface
  • a lunar mini-biosphere, carrying potato and Arabidopsis seeds, as well as silkworm eggs, intended for the first biological experiment on the moon, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported in April