Space agencies the world over are keen to explore new areas in space research and China has joined the race to leave its mark. China has sent its Chang’e 4 robotic probe to the Moon and it will land on the dark side, which will be a first in the history of Moon missions. The landing site selected is in the South Pole where there is the Aitken basin containing the largest, oldest, and deepest crater.

The Guardian reports Chang’e 4 is already on its way to the Moon and while there is no confirmation on when it will touchdown, it could be early Thursday morning UK time.

So far, various Moon missions have captured its far side in photographs but have never attempted to land there. The success of China’s mission will catapult them to a position of superiority and it will find itself alongside big names like the United States and Russia.

China’s Moon mission

The landing site chosen for the Chang’e 4 robotic probe is rocky terrain and one of the tasks assigned to the probe is to take stock of the mineral composition of the Moon. The logic is that Aitken basin was the result of some sort of a collision that might have thrown up material from far below its surface. Hence, an analysis of the rocks could reveal hitherto unknown facts about the composition of its soil and rocks.

Such information would be valuable.

China is looking at another advantage regarding radio astronomy. Positioning a telescope there would be an advantage because it would be free from human radioactivity.

That will make it more sensitive to radio bursts that emanate from the Sun or to faint signals that might come from deep space. Chang’e 4 has onboard equipment to check these aspects. In the opinion of a space scientist at University College London, “There’s been a lot of talk over the years of the potential of having a telescope on the far side.

This mission could pave the way for more serious development on that side.”

Ambitious plans for the far side

According to the BBC, China is targeting the far side, which makes it a more risky and complex mission. Earlier, its predecessor Chang'e-3 landed in the Moon's Mare Imbrium region in 2013. However, the ambitious plans for Chang’e 4 include delivery of samples of lunar rock and dust to Earth. It will be happening after nearly half a century of the Apollo landings and China could be bringing rock samples back to Earth soon. The success of the mission will give a boost to the country because until now, it was building up its capabilities and is now poised to make a point.

Incidentally, the first man on the Moon was an American and President Donald Trump wants NASA to return to the Moon. NASA is currently busy working with robots Curiosity and InSight to explore Mars.