China launches an intelligence ship that plans to climb the dark side of the moon – the world's first place to strengthen Beijing's cosmic ambitions.
The vehicle called Chang-e-4 in honor of the Chinese mythology goddess moon set off on a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang (southwest China) shotgun center on Saturday in 2H23 (18h23 GMT on Friday), according to the official news agency "Xinhua".
This is the beginning of a long voyage for the Chinese ship, which must land near New Year's Eve in order to pass this still unexplored part of the moon and carry out scientific research.
Unlike the person seen on Earth, no probe or scanner has reached the surface on the other side.
This face is mountainous and strong, with cracks, while the more visible side has several flat surfaces.
In 1959, the Soviet Union took the first images of the hidden face of the moon.
Changing e-4 will be "the first probe of humanity to land on the hidden side of the moon and examine it"said the Head of Mission, quoted by the Global Times, published in Chinese and English." This mission is also the most important space exploration project in the world in 2018, "he said.
"For 10 or 20 years China has systematically passed the steps the US and the Soviet Union have taken in space research in the 1960s and 1970s," explains Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. This is "one of the first moments in which the Chinese take something that has not yet been done by anyone else."
China has been preparing for years for this particularly difficult operation from a technological point of view.
One of the biggest challenges is to communicate with the moon robot. Since the moon's dark face is oriented in the opposite direction to the Earth, there is no direct line of sight for signal transmission.
China is now hoping to take this technical step and to this end launched in May a moon-based satellite called Queqiao to transmit orders and data exchanged between the Earth and the module.