China has successfully launched its Chang’e-4 lunar lander and rover, which are set to become the first spacecraft to explore the far side of the moon.
The vehicles are heading for a landing in the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Officials have not announced a landing date, but informed speculation has focused on the first week in January.
The lander includes the following payloads:
- landing and terrain cameras;
- a low-frequency spectrometer;
- a lunar lander neutrons and dosimetry (LND) dosimeter supplied by Kiel University in Germany;
- a container with silkworm eggs and seeds of potatoes and Arabidopsis thaliana; and,
- a miniature camera to record the growth of the eggs and seeds.
The rover’s payloads include:
- a panoramic camera;
- a lunar penetrating radar system;
- a visible and near-infrared imaging spectrometer; and,
- and an advanced small analyzer for neutrals (ASAN) analyzer provided by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) to measure the interaction of the solar winds with the lunar surface.
The lander and rover will communicate with the Chang’e 4 relay satellite, which was launched earlier this year.