On January 2nd, 2019, China became the first country to land a spacecraft onto the moon’s far side. The Chang’e-4 lander and rover touched down on the surface of our moon at 9:26 p.m. Eastern time.
A few hours after landing, the Jade Rabbit 2 rover rolled off the lander to explore the 186km wide Von Karman crater. The crater is located inside a 2,500-kilometer-wide basin. The China National Space Administration chose this exact location to explore one of the oldest known impact features that can be found in our solar system. Experts believe that there are exposed parts of the moon’s interior at this location and that exploring this particular part of the moon can give us some sort of insight into the moon’s early history and the way it was formed.
The rover has been fitted with measuring instruments to determine the region’s composition. It uses a radar that is capable of penetrating the ground and then take pictures of a never before seen landscape. Radiation and charged particle measurements are also going to be carried out. This is necessary to determine how safe the moon’s surface is for astronauts to land again and to check whether plants and insects can thrive on the moon.
The biggest issue the mission is facing is the communication with the rover since it is exploring the side of the moon that is never visible from Earth. This is why China launched a satellite named Magpie Bridge in 2018 capable of relaying messages from Chang’e-4 to Earth and back.
This is only the second time that China completed a successful landing onto the moon’s surface. They have more lunar missions planned, and a mission to collect moon rocks is due later in 2019.
Alexandra grew up dreaming of being a great science explorer. She always wanted to travel the world and explore some of the greatest science mysteries of the times. After high school, she studied chemistry in college and spent most of her summers working on research projects alongside her professors. It was there that Alexandra got clarity about what she wanted to do in the future. She now works full time in science research at a teaching university and is planning to go to medical school in a few years. She likes to stay up-to-date with the latest discoveries in science and share her love for science through her writing.