A Chinese space probe is moving into position to land on the dark side of the moon for the first time, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday, a mission seen as an important step as the country looks to push forward its space programme. The far side of the moon isn't dark, we don't see it from Earth and as such the far side is much less known and studied than the side of the moon we see. The moon's far side has a different composition than sites where missions have been conducted on the near side of the moon.
The Chang'e-4 probe has entered an elliptical lunar orbit, with the perilune at about 15 km and the apolune at about 100 km, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.
The Chang'e-4 lunar probe will land on the Aitken Basin of the lunar south pole region on the far side of the moon, which is a hot spot for scientific and space exploration.
The spacecraft will also measure neutron radiation and various other radio-, light- and gravity-energy metrics as a means of studying the little-known far side of the moon.
China has confirmed that the mission is on target and is expected to make its historic soft landing on the moon between January 1 and January 3.
Several months ago China launched relay satellites that will allow the Chang'e 4 to communicate with its handlers back on Earth.
Direct communication with the far side of the moon, however, is not possible, which is one of the many challenges for the Chang'e-4 lunar probe mission. It includes a lander and a rover to explore the surface of the moon.