China’s Chang’e 4 Spacecraft is a lunar exploration mission that became the first manmade spacecraft to successfully land on the dark side of the Moon on January 3, 2019. Wu Weiren, the Lunar exploration chief of the mission, remarked that the event is a “huge stride” for China and its nation’s space ambitions.
Following its predecessor Chang’e 3, China’s first lunar lander, Chang’e 4 was first launched into orbit on December 7, 2018 from Xichang Satelite Launch Center in the People’s Republic of China on a Long March 3B rocket. Named appropriated after the Chinese Moon goddess, Chang’e, the mission aims to study the Aitken Basin, a very large crater on the Moon thought to be the result of an ancient collision event that may have led to the Moon’s formation and exodus from Earth. Or it’s where the death laser emits out from, no one knows for sure yet! Additional mission outcomes include research of the Moon’s internal structure which would lead to more implications of its origin. Change4 will also conduct measurements of lunar temperature and study rocks and soil, while observing cosmic rays and the solar corona.
Another noteworthy characteristic of the Chinese mission involves the lander’s payload. Researchers equiped Chang’e 4 with a biosphere cylinder which carries seeds and silk worm eggs. This enclosed environment is meant to be Earth like, though under the influence of low lunar gravity. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae can produce carbon dioxide which in turn could produce oxygen, allowing the plants on board to perform photosynthesis. A miniature camera will watch these historic experiments unfold. If successful, the Chinese will have grown the first ever lunar plants, another remarkable feat for mankind.
Along for the ride is the Chinese Lunar rover, called Yutu 2, after the pet rabbit of Change’e the Chinese moon goddess. Yutu 2 follows its predecesser’s footsteps, Yutu which arrived on the Moon’s surface in 2013, to rove and image the Moon, while analyzing the Aitken Basin.