China is considering landing a spacecraft on the moon’s “dark side” in 2020 — a mission, which, if successful, would make it the first country to do so, state media reports. CNN reports:
The planned mission will see the Chang’e 4 spacecraft orbit the moon before sending a rover to the surface, Wu Weiren, the chief engineer for China’s Lunar Exploration Program told state-run broadcaster CCTV. “We probably will choose a site on which it is more difficult to land and more technically challenging… Our next move will probably see some spacecraft land on the far side of the moon,” Wu said.
China successfully landed a spacecraft – the Chang’e 3 – on the moon in December 2013, becoming only the third nation after the United States and Russia to land on the moon’s surface. While the side of the moon not visible from earth has been observed by various probes, a landing has never been attempted.
When contacted by CNN, Wu declined to comment further. The Chang’e 4 spacecraft was initially designed as a backup for the Chang’e-3, which released a lunar rover named “jade rabbit,” which is still working on the moon.
The Chang’e-3 mission marked the completion of the second phase of China’s lunar exploration program, which focused on orbiting and landing on the moon.