A new first in lunar landings will take place sometime in the next 5 years with a visit from the Chinese on the dark side of the moon. A scientist working on the project said that China has shown clear intent on sending a lunar probe in the near future.
Zou Yongliao, one of the researchers working at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the moon exploration department, said his country is really hopeful about the project. If successful, China will become the first to reach the unexplored and far side of the moon.
The main target of the mission is performing a study on the geological conditions that take place on the moon’s far side, as we can’t see it from Earth. According to Zou, that side of the moon is ideal for low frequency study due to its “clean electromagnetic environment.”
Zou is also hoping to fill the void by placing a lunar frequency spectrograph, a probe called Chang’e-4. Previous Chinese probes missions that landed on the moon used similar probes, but with significantly lower payloads.
Back in 2013, China became the third country – following the US and Russia – to send and land a probe on the moon, with the help of Chang’e-3. But this new daring mission has its challenges, and that’s why making it possible will take a while.
According to Michael Brown, an observational astronomer at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, sending a probe on the far side of the moon is difficult mostly because Earth is lost from sight, thus making it challenging to keep a clear communication line between mission controllers and the spacecraft.
Scientists are already working on the communication problem by designing a spacecraft that will orbit the moon in order to keep the radio signals alive from the dark side back to earth.
Brown said that the issue is about to get fixed, given there is spacecraft orbiting Mars regularly transmitting signals from the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers. Landing on the moon successfully and building communications satellites has proved that the Chinese space program is capable of probing the far side of the moon by 2020.
Contrary to popular beliefs, the moon’s far side is not dark; it’s just that we never see from Earth because of the rotational period that is the same as its orbital period. The misnomer was given to us courtesy of Pink Floyd, but sun does rise and set there, too.
Image Source: Space