China targets moon's far side for space probe landing

China's increasingly ambitious space program plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon's far side, a leading engineer said.

Chang'e 4 mission is planned for sometime before 2020

China's Chang'e-3 moon lander, above, carried the rover Yutu to the moon in 2013. Zou Yongliao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' moon exploration department says China's next moon probe will land on the far side of the moon - somewhere no space probe has ever landed. ( Wang Jianmin Xinhua/The Associated Press)

China's increasingly ambitious space program plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon's far side, a leading engineer said.

The Chang'e 4 mission is planned for sometime before 2020, Zou Yongliao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' moon exploration department told state broadcaster CCTV in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

Zou said the mission's objective would be to study geological conditions on the moon's far side, also known as the dark side. 

That could eventually lead to the placement of a radio telescope for use by astronomers, something that would help "fill a void" in man's knowledge of the universe, Zou said.

Radio transmissions from Earth are unable to reach the moon's far side, which perpetually faces away from Earth, making it an excellent location for sensitive instruments.

Return mission in 2017

China's next lunar mission is scheduled for 2017, when it will attempt to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon before returning to Earth with samples. If successful, that would make China only the third country after the United States and Russia to have carried out such a manoeuvre.

China's lunar exploration program, named Chang'e after a mythical goddess, has already launched a pair of orbiting lunar probes, and in 2013 landed a craft on the moon with a rover onboard.

China has also hinted at a possible crewed mission to the moon.

China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003 and has powered ahead with a series of methodically timed steps

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.