China’s goal to become one of the world’s major space powers will be set in motion when it launches a probe in preparation for landing on the dark side of the moon on Sunday, December 30, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
China wants to be considered one of the major players in the space arena by 2030, and it views the mission as an integral component of its space program, per CNBC.
The probe, the Chang’e-4, entered a planned orbit on Sunday for the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, according to the China National Space Administration. The news agency didn’t specify when the inaugural landing would occur. Xinhua only reported that the Chinese space control center would select a “proper time” to land the probe on the far side of the moon.
What makes this endeavor so exciting is that although the far side of the moon has been seen, no other spacecraft has ever landed on it. Scientific American explains why the “dark side” of the moon is not visible from Earth.
“The moon keeps the same face pointing towards the Earth because its rate of spin is tidally locked so that it is synchronized with its rate of revolution (the time needed to complete one orbit.) In other words, the moon rotates exactly once every time it circles the Earth.”
More China-EU space program co-op expected as Chang'e-4 probe prepares for moon-landing pic.twitter.com/7dZroamjhU— XHscitech (@XHscitech) December 30, 2018
A Long March 3B rocket was launched earlier this month and carried the Chang’e-4. The probe includes a lander and a rover to explore the moon’s surface. The probe first entered a lunar orbit on December 12, and reached its closest point today at 08:55 Beijing time. This elliptical lunar orbit was just 15 kilometers away from the surface of the moon.
The news agency reported that the Chang’ e-4 has various tasks to perform in order for the mission to be a success.
“The tasks of the Chang’e-4 include astronomical observation, surveying the moon’s terrain, landform and mineral composition, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon.”
China aims to catch up with Russia and the United States, the world leaders in space discovery, by 2020. In accordance with the country’s goals, they want to construct their own manned space station in 2019.
China insists that its ambition to be a major player in this arena is peaceful. However, the United States Defense Department thinks that China wants to monopolize space-based assets and prevent other nations from accessing the valuable resources during times of crisis.