China has launched a reconnaissance ship that plans to ascend the dark side of the Moon, the world's first place to boost space ambitions in Beijing.
The vehicle, baptized by Chang-e-4 – in honor of the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology – was launched on a March 3B missile from the start-up center of Xichang (southwest China) on Saturday in 2H23 local (18h23 GMT Friday), according to the official press agency Xinhua.
It is the beginning of a long journey for a Chinese ship that should land near the New Year to travel through this untapped part of the Moon and carry out scientific research.
Unlike the face visible from Earth, no scanner or scanner has ever reached the surface on the other side.
This face is mountainous and rugged, with flowing craters, while the more visible side has several planar surfaces.
In 1959, the Soviets took the first images of the hidden face of the Moon.
Changing e-4 will be "the first human probe to land on the hidden side of the Moon and explore it"said He Rongwei, head of the Global Times, in Czech and English." This mission is also the most important space exploration project in the world in 2018, "he said.
"In the course of 10 or 20 years, China is systematically going through the steps taken by the United States and the Soviet Union in the exploration of the universe in the 1960s and 1970s," explains Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics. This is "one of the first times when the Chinese are doing something that no one has ever done".
China has been preparing for this particularly difficult operation from a technological point of view for years.
One of the biggest problems is communicating with the lunar robot. Since the dark face of the Moon is oriented in the opposite direction to Earth, there is no direct "line" for signal transmission.
China now hopes to take this technical step and to this end launch in May a Queqiao satellite in orbit on the moon to transmit commands and data exchanged between the Earth and the module.