China's rover blasts off to make history on moon's 'dark side'

Christopher Davidson
December 8, 2018

China launches Chang'e-4 lunar probe in the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province, Dec. 8, 2018.

China on Saturday launched a first probe ever to explore the dark side of the Moon, marking another milestone in its ambitious space program, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China has promoted worldwide cooperation in its lunar exploration program, with four scientific payloads in the Chang'e-4 mission developed by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia.

The rover is scheduled to observe the possibilities for sustaining plant life and seek potential water sources in the previously unexplored expanse, as well as conduct astronomical experiments aided by the far-side's natural shielding from Earth's electromagnetic waves.

It would also like to develop a moon base through several manned missions.

The Chang'e 4 mission is a step in that direction, significant for the engineering expertise needed to explore and settle the moon, McDowell said.

Chang'e-4 will be the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu ("Jade Rabbit") rover mission in 2013. A crewed lunar mission is also under consideration.

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Adding to the difficulties, Chang'e-4 is being sent to the Aitken Basin in the lunar south pole region - known for its craggy and complex terrain - state media has said.

Since the Moon spins around the same center of rotation as Earth, it's always facing away from us.

Chang'e is the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.

The mission also demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russian Federation, the European Union and the U.S. The launch of a Mars rover is planned for the mid-2020s.

#BREAKING: China launches Chang'e-4 lunar probe in the early hours of Saturday.

China's space program has benefited from cooperation with Russian Federation and European nations, although it was excluded from the 420-ton International Space Station, mainly due to USA legislation barring such cooperation amid concerns over its strong military connections.

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