A Chinese spacecraft is heading for the moon on a historic mission.
The rocket launched on Saturday carries a probe to make the first softer landing in the far side of the moon, the Chinese State Administration Xinhua Agency.
While other spacecraft have already explored the distant side of the moon from afar, soft landings will allow a more detailed study of the lunar surface. The probe is expected to stand in early January.
If you are tempted to make a joke in Pink Floyd, remember: "The moon's land that we do not see on Earth gets as much sunlight as the one we see." In fact, the only dark side of the Moon is the country that is targeting aside from the Sun at any time, "says NASA.
Dark or not, exploration of the distant side of the Moon comes with its challenges. For one, the moon will block direct communication between the probe and the researchers on Earth. To do this, China released a relay satellite in May, allowing the probe to stay in contact with the scientists. Citing the national space administration of China, Xinhua explain the goals of the current mission:
The scientific tasks of the Chang-e-4 Mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, terrain and terrestrial observations, detection of the mineral composition and surface structure of the moon surface, and measurement of neutron radiation and neutral atoms for environmental study side of the moon .
These measurements will be easier made from the Moon, as they will act as a giant shield against electromagnetic disturbances coming from Earth. Smithsonian Magazine reports that there will be a biological aspect of the research – silkworms, eggs and potato seeds are on board for breathing and photosynthesis studies.
If the mission succeeds, China plans to launch its fifth mission, Chan's next year, which will collect samples from the surface of the Moon and bring them back to Earth.