Chinese spacecraft hoping to reach the dark side of the moon has entered lunar orbit after a voyage of 240,000 miles lasting 110 hours
- Chang’e-4 successfully entered a stable lunar orbit 80 miles above the surface
- It is believed that the probe will land on the dark side of the moon in January
- The mission communicates with Earth via a relay satellite known as Queqiao
- It will make a ‘soft-landing’ in the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater
- The crater is so deep it is believed it could provide never-before-seen rocks
China‘s mission to the dark side of the moon has successfully entered a stable orbit around our natural satellite.
The 240,000 mile long (385,000km) journey took 110 hours to complete and saw Chang’e-4 enter into an elliptical orbit 80 miles above the surface.
It is expected to land on the dark side of the moon at some point in early January, but the country’s secretive space agency has not announced a set date.
Scroll down for video
The Chang’e-4 (artist’s impression pictured), has today entered lunar orbit and will be the first ever rover to land on the far side of the lunar surface. A lander will help guide the spacecraft to the dark side of the moon
Retrorockets on the probe fired on 12 December to stabilise the spacecraft and slow it down.
Chang’e-4 will target the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater, the largest in the entire solar system at 15,000 miles (24,000km) across and eight miles deep.
It took off from the Xichang satellite launch centre in Sichuan, south-west China at 6:30 GMT on December 7 atop a Long March-3B rocket.
It is expected to perform a ‘soft-landing’ and land on the moon after completing its 27 day journey through space.
Exploring the huge divot on the surface of the moon may shed new light on its history and geology by collecting rocks that have never been seen before.
Chang’e-4 has been described as ‘hugely ambitious’ and heralded as a sign of China’s growing intentions to rival the space exploration prowess of the US, Russia and the EU
It will visit an unexplored region of the lunar surface called the South Pole-Aitken Basin (pictured), located in the southern hemisphere of the moon
The relay satellite will fly to the Earth-Moon point in orbit around 80,000 km away from the moon’s surface (pictured)
Researchers hope the huge depth of the crater will allow them to study the moon’s mantle, the layer underneath the surface, of the moon.
Chang’e-4 has been described as ‘hugely ambitious’ and heralded as a sign of China’s growing intentions to rival the space exploration prowess of the US, Russia and the EU.
To facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e-4 mission, China launched a relay satellite named Queqiao on 20 May and is now stationed in operational orbit about 40,000 miles beyond the moon.
CHINESE SPACE EXPLORATION
China landed its Yutu, or ‘Jade Rabbit’, rover on the moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang’e-5 probe there next year.
Change-5 is the follow up to the current mission and will return to Earth with the first samples from the moon since 1976.
The Asian superpower is also considering a crewed lunar mission.
On September 29, 2011, China launched Tiangong 1.
On December 14, 2013 China’s Chang’e 3 became the first object to soft-land on the Moon since Luna 24 in 1976
A second space lab, Tiangong 2, launched on 15 September 2016.
A larger basic permanent space station would be the third and last phase of Project 921.
The first section, designated Tiangong 3, is scheduled for launch after Tiangong 2.
The Chinese space station is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
China also plans for its first uncrewed Mars exploration program could take place sometime between now and 2033, followed by a crewed phase in 2040-2060.
Its payload will include materials necessary for experiments, including a low-frequency radio spectrometer, a panoramic camera and lunar penetrating radar, among other things
The probe and explorer will use Queqiao to get their findings back to China. As the landing is happening on the dark side of the moon it required its own satellite to be able to send information back
This will be the primary form of communication between Earth and the spacecraft.
The probe and explorer will use Queqiao to get their findings back to China. As the landing is happening on the dark side of the moon it required its own satellite to be able to send information back.
China’s latest mission closely follows the touchdown of NASA’s InSight spacecraft on Mars on Monday, at a site less than 400 miles (640 kilometres) from the American rover Curiosity, the only other working robot on Mars.
Chang’e-4 launched from the Xichang satellite launch centre in Sichuan, south-west China at 6:30 GMT on December 7
The Chinese plan involves two missions. One places a satellite in orbit around the moon to provide a means of sending information and data back to Earth (left). The other part involves a lander and rover which will work together to explore the surface of the moon (right)