China’s Chang’e-4 mission is now officially underway after the Long March 3B rocket was successfully launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center with a very special robotic craft which will explore the many secrets hidden on the dark side of the moon.
As the BBC reported, the touchdown on the dark side of the moon won’t happen for another 27 days, but when the probe arrives at the moon in January, its thrusters will help it to gently reach the lunar terrain. While it may seem obvious, the dark side of the moon derives its name from the fact that this side does not face the Earth and very little is known about it, relatively speaking. It is tidal locking which makes it so humans are only able to see one particular side of the moon, the only side that we know.
All of this will change when China’s probe touches down on the moon and begins to explore the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater, however. According to the Telegraph, the robotic craft will be able to undertake radio-astronomical studies which will be helped greatly by the fact that because it is the far side of the moon, it will be fully “free from interference from our planet’s ionosphere, human-made radio frequencies and auroral radiation noise,” as Leonard David has explained.
The Von Karman crater is a region that has long held a great attraction for scientists because it is situated in what is the oldest impact area of the moon in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which is believed to have been created billions of years ago after the moon was struck by a gigantic asteroid.
China's Chang'e 4 mission aims to put a lander and rover on the largely unexplored far side of the moon. It launches tomorrow. https://t.co/I2VSSMOKXd
— CBC News (@CBCNews) December 7, 2018
The Chang’e-4 probe is currently armed with a container which weighs 6.6 pounds and contains seeds from the arabidopsis plant and the potato, and with these, scientists will be undertaking a unique biological experiment that was created by a total of 28 different universities in China. Describing the project, Liu Hanlong, the chief director of the experiment and vice president of Chongqing University, explained the following.
“We want to study the respiration of the seeds and the photosynthesis on the Moon.”
Xie Gengxin, who is the chief designer behind the experiment, stated that in this special environment where the seeds are growing, the temperature will need to be continuously kept within a very specific and safe range to ensure the best outcome possible.
“We have to keep the temperature in the ‘mini biosphere’ within a range from 1 degree to 30 degrees, and properly control the humidity and nutrition. We will use a tube to direct the natural light on the surface of Moon into the tin to make the plants grow.”
All data acquired from the Chang’e-4 mission on the dark side of the moon will be sent back to Earth through the relay satellite Queqiao.