Earthlings have been sending probes to explore the Moon since 1959. But in those 57 years, the far side of our satellite has remained untouched by human footsteps and probes alike. Now, China hopes to change that.
According to Chinese state media Xinhua News Agency, China aims to go to the far side of the Moon by 2018, as reported by Reuters. Chang’e-4 – an unmanned probe named after a mythological Chinese goddess of the Moon – will explore and survey the geology of the uncharted lunar lands.
This side of the Moon, which never faces Earth, has been seen in imagery taken from spacecrafts. The first-ever photographs were taken in 1959, when the Soviet Union deployed their Luna 3 spacecraft.
We haven’t been to the far side of the Moon yet as crucial communication signals to and from Earth are essentially “blocked out.” This means that in order for a probe to be in contact with Earth, a satellite or spacecraft would also have to be launched into lunar orbit so that signals can be relayed. However, it is precisely for that reason that China wants to build a base there, as being sheltered from the constant stream of Earth’s radio interface could give a radio telescope a clearer view of the universe.
President Xi Jinping has made space exploration a top priority for China, hoping to use the space program as a demonstration of their increasing economic and technological prowess. As of yet, their missions have been accused of merely mimicking previous missions by the Russians and Americans. However, if Chang’e-4 is a success, China will cement its place as a major new player in the space exploration game.