China's lunar mission shifts to far side of the moon

Posted Jun 14, 2016 by Lucky Malicay
China’s lunar exploration will shift to the far side of the moon as it aims to send the Chang’e-4 mission to the south pole region in 2018.
The Moon  tinted reddish  during a lunar eclipse.
The Moon, tinted reddish, during a lunar eclipse.
Alfredo Garcia, Jr.
A relay satellite for Chang'e-4 will be sent to the halo orbit of the Earth-Moon Lagrange Point L2 in May or June 2018, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
Scientists will then launch the Chang'e-4 lunar lander and rover to the Aitken Basin of the south pole region about six months later.
"We plan to land Chang'e-4 at the Aitken Basin because the region is believed to be a place with great scientific research potential," Liu Tongjie, deputy director of the CNSA's Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center, told Xinhua.
A hot area for scientific exploration, the far side of the moon has a complex geological history aside from its special environment. But for the Chang'e-4 to get there, a relay satellite is required to transmit signals.
Liu said the Chang'e-4 mission will be difficult since the Aitken Basin’s landscape is rugged and the transmission channel is limited.
But, he said, the lander of Chang'e-4 will have descent and terrain cameras and is equipped with radar that will detect the near surface structure of the moon while the rover will carry a panoramic camera.
Chang'e-4 will also have infrared spectrometer that will analyze samples and a low-frequency radio spectrometer designed for the moon’s south pole region.
"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 Liu, adding the mission will carry the scientific payloads developed by Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
The relay satellite of the Chang'e-4 will be equipped with low-frequency radio spectrometer developed in the Netherlands while the rover will have an advanced small analyzer for neutrals made in Sweden. The lander will carry a German-made neutron dosimeter, which measures radiation at the landing site.
"It's in-depth, friendly and win-win international cooperation under the leadership of the CNSA," said Liu. "The cooperation will help engineers and scientists from different countries study together. Scientists could conduct joint research and share scientific data."
The Chang’e-4 probe will be China’s second lunar exploration following the Chang'e-3 landing mission on the moon in 2013.
The country has been strengthening its space program, spending billions of dollars to catch up with the United States and Europe.
In March, an official of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced that China is joining the race to explore Mars through a probe to be launched in 2020.
"Although we are not the first Asian nation to send a probe to Mars, we want to start at a higher level," CAS academician Ye Peijian told the Xinhua News Agency.
"We have less than five years till the launch, but we are confident. The probe is being developed by the team that completed the Chang'e-3 lunar probe."