China is ready to become the first country to send a probe to the dark side of the moon. The mission could unveil the secrets of the moon's mysterious side.
Chang'e-4 Enters Planned Orbit
The China National Space Administration has announced that the country's Chang'e-4 probe entered a planned orbit on Sunday in preparation for the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon.
The CNSA said the probe, which was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan Province on Dec. 8, entered a planned elliptical lunar orbit, coming as close as 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) to the lunar surface shortly before 9 a.m. Beijing time.
China's ground control center has trimmed the spacecraft's orbit twice since Dec. 12, when Chang'e-4 entered the lunar orbit, and tested the communication link between Chang'e-4 and the relay satellite Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge.
Space engineers also checked the imaging instruments and ranging detectors aboard as the probe prepares for landing.
The CNSA said that the control center still has to choose a proper time to land the probe on the far side of the moon.
First Probe To Reach The Dark Side Of The Moon
Other spacecraft have already seen the far side of the moon but no lander or rover has ever been there.
If successful, the Chang'e-4 mission will be a step toward China's ambitions to be on par with the United States and Russia in the field of space exploration. China has been vocal about its hopes to become a major space power by the year 2030.
Only one side of the moon can be seen from the Earth's surface because the natural satellite rotates at the same rate that it orbits our planet. The other side, dubbed the far side or the dark side of the moon, is not actually in darkness.
It is merely uncharted and China may soon change that.