Humanity has Finally Landed on the Far Side of the Moon

Humanity has Finally Landed on the Far Side of the Moon

Chang’e 4 Mission touched down the mysterious side of the moon.

China is the latest addition to the list of countries which have visited the natural satellite of our planet. The Chang’e 4 Mission achieved this feat on 3rd January 2019. What made this event more special is that the spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon. It touched down the surface of the Von Karman Crater, which is 186 kilometers wide, to complete the first-ever landing on this part of the moon. Jim Bridenstine, an Administrator of NASA, congratulated the team of Chang’e 4 for this amazing achievement in the following words:

Congratulations to China’s Chang’e 4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!

The natural satellite of Earth takes about 27.3 days to spin around its axis. It takes the same amount of time to orbit our planet which leads us to a concept called the ‘Tidal Locking’. It is the most important factor due to which it took us so long to explore that side of the moon. On the other hand, the near side of the moon has welcomed quite a lot of manned and unmanned missions. The far side is a difficult target to explore as it is impossible to make direct communication from the Earth to a spacecraft due to the rocky bulk of the moon. The Chinese space agency decided to solve this problem and launched a relay satellite called ‘Queqiao’, in May 2018.

It found a gravitationally stable spot at the Earth-moon Lagrange Point 2 and positioned itself there. From this position, this satellite can keep an eye on Chang’e 4 and our planet. Chang’e 4 is equipped with a number of instruments. Four of them are added on the Lander including the Low-Frequency Spectrometer while the remaining 4 instruments were added to the rover. All of them will ensure that the spacecraft gets the most out of its surroundings. It will extract useful information about all sections (both near and far side) of the lunar surface. Similarly, the mission will result in some dramatic images as Chang’e 4 is located in one of the largest impact features of our solar system, the South Pole-Aitken (SPA).

It is expected that Chang’e 4 will perform different experiments on the moon in the coming months. Scientists are quite hopeful that these efforts will enhance their understanding about the formation, structure, and evolution of the Earth’s natural satellite. The mission team has placed a tin containing some seeds of Rockcress and Potatoes in the lander of the spacecraft with the intentions of performing an interesting experiment on the lunar surface.

In addition to that, the tin also has some silkworm eggs in it. According to a report, the researchers of the mission want to observe whether these plants can grow in such a hostile environment or not. Both the plants will get Carbon Dioxide from silkworms, who will survive on the Oxygen produced by these plants. Xie Gengxin, the Chief Designer of the experiment, explained the idea and said,

We want to study the respiration of the seeds and the photosynthesis on the moon.”

A total of 28 Chinese universities contributed to this idea of a biosphere experiment on the moon. In the past, scientists have successfully grown Rockcress in space on a number of occasions. One such experiment was performed on the International Space Station (ISS) which proved that the leaves rise and fall due to the gravitational pull of the moon. However, what will happen with plants on its other side is still unknown. The experimental container is made up of an Aluminum alloy which weighs at around 3 kilograms (including water, dirt, and other nutrients). Mini-cameras will capture all the happenings, which will be sent back to the Earth through the relay system. Liu Hanlong elaborated the intentions behind this particular experiment and said,

Why potato and Arabidopsis? Because the growth period of Arabidopsisis short and convenient to observe. And potato could become a major source of food for future space travelers. Our experiment might help accumulate knowledge for building a lunar base and long-term residence on the moon.”

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