China Launches Lunar Rover To Far Side Of The Moon
China is poised to become the first country to explore the far side of the moon with the launch of a lunar rover Saturday, another step to its goal of becoming a space superpower.
The Chang’e 4 lunar mission lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Sichuan province in the early morning, confirmed by the Twitter account of the country’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
It’s expected to land in early January after 26 days of flight, said China’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
The lander will conduct the first lunar low-frequency radio astronomy experiment, observe whether plants will grow in the low-gravity environment, and explore whether there is water or other resources at the poles.
Another function of the mission is to study the interaction between solar winds and the moon surface using a new rover.
“Since the far side of the moon is shielded from electromagnetic interference from the Earth, it’s an ideal place to research the space environment and solar bursts, and the probe can ‘listen’ to the deeper reaches of the cosmos,” said Tongjie Liu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center for the China National Space Administration.
Because the far side of the moon is free from interference from radio frequencies, the mission requires a relay satellite to transmit signals that was launched into place this year.
The Chang’e 4 rover is 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and about 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide and tall, with two foldable solar panels and six wheels.
“China is anxious to get into the record books with its space achievements,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College and an expert on China’s space program.
Beijing plans to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbital and rover exploration, followed by a mission that would include collection of surface samples from the Red Planet.
In comparison, despite its recent success in sending a robotic lander to Mars, the US space agency NASA has faced years of budgetary constraints.
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