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China’s Chang’e-4 Mission Will Land at the South Pole Aitkin Basin, on the Far Side of the Moon

June 14, 2106 (EIRNS)—China’s deputy director of the space agency’s Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center, Liu Tongjie, told Xinhua today, that the Chang’e-4 spacecraft, to be launched in 2018, will land in the south pole region on the far side of the Moon. This is the first definite mention of a landing site. Landing on the far side will be a challenge, and aiming for the south pole, out of the equatorial plain, is an additional one.

The great South Pole Aitkin Basin has been chosen, Lui said, "because the region is believed to be a place with great scientific research potential." A very large impactor created a crater about five miles deep. The lower depths of the basin, and the material brought up to the surface from the impact, will reveal some of the complex geological history of the Moon.

As the landscape is very rugged, and the landing more complicated than the previous near-side lunar landing of Chang’e-3, the up-coming lander will be equipped with descent and terrain cameras, for a guided descent. The Chang’e-4 lander will have a surface-penetrating radar, similar to the successful instrument on Chang’e-3.

The probe will carry three scientific instruments. A low-frequency spectrometer, contributed by the Netherlands, will be on a relay satellite, which is being positioned in deep space to allow communication between the lander and the Earth. Observing radio emissions from the large planets in the Solar System, the radio background spectrum, and detecting bright pulsars and other transient phenomena will be the task of the instrument. There will also be low-frequency radio spectrometers on the lander. Sweden is contributing an advanced neutron analyzer for the rover, to study the interaction between the solar wind and the Moon’s surface. And the lander will measure the radiation at the landing site, using a German neutron dosimeter.

"It’s in-depth, friendly, and win-win international cooperation, under the leadership of the China National Space Administration," said Liu.

"The cooperation will help engineers and scientists from different countries study together. Scientists could conduct joint research and share scientific data."

The article reports that young people have been encouraged to participate in the mission. A contest was held among students early this year, to propose ideas on the design of scientific payloads for the lander, rover, and relay satellite. A total of 257 submissions were collected, and in September there will be an announcement of the experiments chosen for the mission.

"The contest is based on creativity, but engineering feasibility has to be considered," Liu explained. "We’ll try to select one or two items eventually to take to the Moon.