The Chinese have unveiled plans to explore the moon's dark side and possibly set up a base camp there.
The country submitted their preliminary report to the United Nations Office for Outerspace Affairs indicating that it has plans of launching an unmanned mission to the moon with the spacecraft Chang'E-4 by 2018 or 2019. The probe will lay the groundwork for what would be China's lunar base.
Some of the key notes in the paper laid out the objectives of the mission, which include:
- Making the first soft landing on the moon's far side, which has not been done before;
- Probing its complicated terrains;
- Testing the capabilities of technology for data relay and communication from this part of the moon, as well as demonstrating the capabilities of lunar night power generation.
Back in the 70s, an astronaut from the Apollo 17 mission, Jack Schmitt, petitioned for probing the far side of the moon during one of its missions. However, NASA thought that this area, which hardly faces the Earth, is believed to be dark, rugged and dangerous.
Schmitt wanted the mission approved specifically for the reasons that the Chinese are now presenting, which could aid possible future missions by astronauts in Mars, according to IFL Science.
China is willing to collaborate with other countries or organizations for this planned mission. The country is willing to offer "detailed survey on lunar environment in order to lay a foundation for subsequent lunar exploration mission" and "experimental verification for [a] lunar base," according to GB Times. Only, NASA has been banned from working with China, according to Discovery.
China's National Space Agency has had three lunar missions in the past, the last of which was Chang'E-3, which reached the moon in December of 2013.
China is one of three nations, aside from the United States and Russia, to have landed on the moon's surface.