China Launches Chang’e 4 Lander & Rover to Far Side of Moon

Von Karman crater, the planned landing site for Chang’e-4.

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.

  • Robert G. Oler

    good fortune…the relay satellite has been very good for amateur radio operators

  • Vladislaw

    Hope the tests are all successful and they are public with the data.

  • Cameron

    Sounds like a fantastic mission.

  • SamuelRoman13

    This is not a mission to explore the far side.This is a polar mission. It is misleading to say so. I thought relay sat, far side, somewhere in the middle. Like the huge bullseye crater. Nope. South Pole. The crater rim blocks the view of Earth, so they need a relay. I think radio signals will bounce off the crater walls to the lander and no relay is needed. This will also ruin the quiet low frequency experiment on board. There is 44% light duration, but 100% on the rim,so I expect that light will be reflected and it will be about like full Moon here, on the bottom

  • SamuelRoman13

    Those 2 circular features on the right side of the image is interesting. The Sun light is coming from the left. Since they have light on the left side, this means these are mountains. Maybe lava up flow. Never seen anything like that.

  • SamuelRoman13
    The landing site looks very rough from these images. Close up bottom. It does have a landing camera, but I can not find anything about terrain avoidance by computer or RC pilot. Looks like it will be luck if they land safely.

  • windbourne

    I suspect that it is exploration to get ready for a lunar base. Smart on their part.

  • redneck

    I’m sure the lander team never thought of that.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I wish them very good fortune. This is the kind of Mission NASA should have been doing decades ago.

  • duheagle

    The Chinese do, in fact, incorporate intelligent terminal guidance, including large object avoidance, into their descent and landing software. That was true of the Change-3 lander awhile back and can only have improved since. Luck, whether good or bad, always plays a role in such missions, but the Chinese are hardly trusting to it exclusively.

  • duheagle


  • SamuelRoman13

    Thanks. I did not find that anywhere I searched.

  • SamuelRoman13

    I agree. It is called the SPA (South Pole Aiken basin) though.

  • SamuelRoman13
  • SamuelRoman13
    Here is one with the scale. Maybe everything is rounded enough that even though they land on a slope it will still work. I need to see if there are rocks tall enough to hit the bottom though.

  • SamuelRoman13
    The lower center with dark spot is 50m across. This the highest mag. I could from LRO interactive quick map. Typical of landing area. Not too rough.

  • Robert G. Oler

    and should do today….we need a vigorous effort to explore the moon, map its resources and try and figure out how to use them

  • duheagle

    China will certainly make free with lunar farside photos, especially those taken on descent just as the Soviets did when their first lunar fly-by probe took the first-ever shots of this terrain back in the day.

  • duheagle

    Well, Bridenstine seems to be hot to do so and is busily kicking NASA’s somnolent arse to get things moving in that direction. The Commercial Lunar Payload Services program represents an effort to waste as little additional time as possible getting lunar exploration at multiple locations underway.

  • savuporo

    NASA recently cancelled it’s last lunar lander project, the Resource Prospector

  • Robert G. Oler

    lol there is no significant progress toward a US lunar effort

  • Robert G. Oler

    yes…we need a new political effort

  • duheagle

    And ginned up the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program in its place – multiple private sector landers and rovers in place of a single all-NASA mission.

  • duheagle

    Sure, that’ll help.

    Seriously, what sort of “political effort” aimed at accomplishing what end(s)?

    Your gnostic utterances grow ever more opaque.

  • duheagle

    I would call a program (CLPS) aimed at getting multiple landers and rovers to the moon in place of only one, and to begin doing so earlier, significant progress. What would you call it?

  • savuporo

    It didn’t gin up anything, there is no funding behind it. Also, it awarded near 100M dollars a couple years ago for FIVE leading comsat vendors for “commercial” Martian comsat bids, and absolutely fuck-all came of it. NASA ended up hiding and burying the report.

    If you look at the awards for the “commercial” payload services, there are no companies with any capability to actually get a spacecraft out in space, with the exception of LockMart. Rest is the same crop that were all frantically “winning” Google Lunar X-Prize for decades

    I have a few bridges i can sell you if you think this amounts to an actual spacecraft.

  • Robert G. Oler

    a lot of talk and little or no money or action…ie a “Trump”

  • duheagle

    CLPS includes up to $2.6 billion in acquisition funds over the next 10 years.

    I’ve seen nothing lately about Mars comsats either. The RFI on that went out in 2014. I don’t know if there were any responses or not or what NASA did with them if there were. With the Insight lander just arrived and the 2020 Rover soon to follow, the existing aging relay sats are going to be hard-pressed to keep up. NASA did a lot of fairly dimwitted things during the Obama administration. This particular apparent dereliction just seems to be one more. Mr. Bridenstine has an Augean Stables-level cleanup job to do at NASA. I don’t envy him the job.

    Agree that LockMart can definitely get a lander/rover to the Moon.

    Lets look at the other eight companies you’ve dismissed as nonentities:

    Astrobotic, Moon Express and Orbit Beyond started out as Google Lunar X-Prize entrants. Astrobotic dropped out before the prize was canceled to pursue more general lunar lander/rover capabilities. The other two elected to continue in business after the prize was canceled. The main difficulty Google Lunar X-Prize teams had was the cost of a suitable ride. With NASA paying for the rides of winners of mission bids under CLPS, that issue is now gone. The NASA imprimatur should also ease problems related to raising development funds.

    Deep Space Systems has been around since 2001 and has about 50 employees. It has done a lot of varied spacecraft work as a subcontractor to NASA and to companies with better-known names.

    Draper Laboratory has been around since 1932 and has had a hand in many aeronautical and space instrumentation and GNC projects including missile and space work for DoD and NASA.

    Firefly Aerospace intends to launch on its own rocket, Alpha, which is supposed to begin test flights in 3Q 2019. So LockMart is not the only company on the CLPS list that can provide its own ride.

    Intuitive Machines is building a lander based on the IP developed for the NASA Morpheus VTVL testbed program. That includes smart obstacle avoidance technology analogous to what the Chinese used on Chang’e 3 and are set to use again shortly with Chang’e 4.

    Masten Space was the winner of the NASA Lunar Lander Challenge. The company has built and flown many VTVL rocket vehicles.

    CLPS doesn’t “amount to an actual spacecraft,” it amounts to several actual spacecraft.

  • duheagle

    NASA says CLPS could spend up to $2.6 billion over the coming decade.

    By the way, if Trump never takes any action, what makes him so objectionable to people of refined sensibilities such as yourself? And if there is never any money behind his proposals, why all the latter-day whinging about how he’s exploding the federal deficit?

  • Michael Halpern

    he’s objectionable because of his divisiveness, whether he is bigoted or not, he plays on people who are, heck he couldn’t even say “nazis are bad” and he does an excellent job of blaming the victim, even when they are victims of Natural disasters, as for the deficit, his tax cuts come from somewhere.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Trump is spending money like a stuck hog just not on things such as space. the deficit is exploding

    as for objectionable. he is a liar, a fraud and a crook to name a few