China has launched a lunar rover on a historic mission to explore the dark side of the moon, with the potential to make revolutionary discoveries about the possibility of extraplanetary life.
Friday’s successful launch sent China’s Chang’e-4 into orbit, scheduled to make an unprecedented touch down on the dark side of the moon in January of next year, Chinese state media reports. The rover will land in the 3.9 billion year old “Von Kármán” crater, where it will take measurements and conduct experiments with the potential to uncover new information about the moon’s formation and history.
The rover is scheduled to observe the possibilities for sustaining plant life and seek potential water sources in the previously unexplored expanse, as well as conduct astronomical experiments aided by the far-side’s natural shielding from Earth’s electromagnetic waves.
The previous model of the lunar rover completed a successful 972 day mission in early 2016, a mission which made China the third nation in history to successful reach the moon.
The Soviet Union was the first nation to shed light on the moon’s dark side when it captured the first images of its surface in 1959, exposing a mountainous and craggy geography radically different from the more familiar half.
China’s ambitious plans for moon exploration won’t end with the probe: the country plans to land astronauts on the moon by 2030, which would mark the first time humans have set foot on the astrological body since the early 1970s.
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