China is working on a lunar project with plans to land a space probe and rover on the “dark” side of the moon, according to one of the top engineers in its Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP). If the mission is successful, it would be the first time that a probe has ever landed on the far side of the moon.
The “dark” side of the moon is not actually dark. It is referred to as the “dark” side because the area has never been explored by humans.
State-run China Central Television (CCTV) interviewed chief engineer Wu Weiren about the upcoming mission for the Chang’e 4 probe.
According to comments translated by the gbtimes, Wu said:
We are currently discussing the next moon landing site for Chang’e 4. We probably will choose a site that is more difficult to land and more technically challenging. Other countries have chosen to land on the near side of the moon. Our next move probably will see some spacecraft land on the far side of the moon.
China has previously shown success with its Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu lunar rover, which reportedly have “contributed to our understanding of the moon,” according to the report.
Experts have noted that such a feat would provide China with a great boost in national prestige and would show a level of technical expertise that is perhaps unparalleled. If the landing is successful, the research conducted on the far side of the moon could provide further insight into the moon’s interior, the report adds.
CCTV reports that Chang’e 4 has an expected launch date of sometime around 2020 and that the state-run agency is open to private partners.
China has already scheduled another lunar mission within the next two years. Chang’e 5, which is expected to launch in 2017, before Chang’e 4, will gather lunar samples and bring them back to earth, states the report.
Rival neighbor Japan is mulling its own moon mission, with hopes to launch at some point in 2018. The United States is likely to assist in the building of Japan’s rocket and landing craft. The U.S. space agency, NASA, has no near-future plans of independently launching another mission to the moon.