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You’d better hurry if you want to beat China to the dark side of the moon – they’re going!

China succeeded to orbit and land on the moon back in December 2013 already, as the third nation ever after U.S.A. and Russia. Using the spacecraft Chang’e 3, they managed to land a rover called the Yutu; the Jade Rabbit. Now they’re looking to launch Chang’e 4 in 2020, with the purpose to not only land on the moon again, but to do it on the dark side where no one yet has managed to land before.

The mission, planned and executed by China’s Lunar Exploration Program, looks to be an interesting challenge, according to chief engineer Wu Weiren when announcing the mission to CCTV, China Central Television: “We probably will choose a site on which it is more difficult to land and more technically challenging.”

In 2017 already, China intends to launch the spacecraft Chang’e 5, while waiting for Chang’e 4 to go, and this next mission will represent the third phase of the Chinese space program.

The Chang’e 5 spacecraft will both orbit, land on the moon and then return back to Earth. The probe that lands on the moon surface will perform a soft landing, dig about two meters down and collect a rock sample. According to Ouyang Ziyuan, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as well as a senior consultant in the lunar exploration program, says that Chang’e 5 is to be launched at an island off southern China called Hainan, with its recently built Wenchang Satellite Launch Center.

One of the exciting possibilities for a rover exploring the far side of the moon, is that there is an enormous impact crater, called the South Pole-Aitken basin, which means that the interior of the moon is more exposed than anywhere else, allowing for interesting findings regarding how the moon once formed and what it’s made of.

The first nation to get a reliable access to the moon in the future, will among other things be able to harvest Helium 3, which is a clean-burning fuel that might even provide us with an alternative to nuclear power. Considering that Japan’s space agency has also announced that they plan to land a rover on the moon a year after the Chang’e 5 mission, we are like to see an interesting race among several nations to reach and more fully explore our constant companion in space.

Image: Thomas Bresson