[Editorial Analysis] Dark side of the moon: on China’s moon mission

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology

Prelims level: China’s moon mission

Mains level: China’s moon mission significance and impacts


• China joined a select group of countries with successful missions to the moon, when its spacecraft, Chang’e-4, successfully made a landing at ‘10.26 on January 3’, according to the China National Space Administration.

• It landed at a spot on the moon’s far side, the Von Kármán crater, which is untouched by earlier missions from earth.

• After landing, Chang’e-4, named after the Chinese moon goddess, relayed a close-up image of the ‘far’ side of the moon through the communication relay satellite Queqiao.

• The Queqiao satellite was launched last May by China for the very purpose of helping Chang’e-4 communicate with earth, as direct communication with it is not possible from the moon’s far side, which never faces earth.

• The Chang’e-4 mission carries payloads, of which two are in collaboration with Germany and Sweden, respectively.

• The instruments include cameras, low-frequency radio spectrum analyser, lunar neutron and radiation dose detectors, and many more.

• Among other things, the mission could pave the way to setting up a radio telescope on the far side of the moon.

Significance of this mission

• Considering that earth is right next door to the moon, we know precious little about it.

• Its formation and early evolution present mysteries which, if understood, could guide us in planetary studies, and help in understanding exoplanets.

• The near side, which faces earth, has dark patterns; the far side, turned away, is marked with circular spots that are craters formed by meteorite collisions.

• The moon’s near side is believed to have a thinner shell, so that when meteorites bombarded it they cracked its shell, releasing lava which gushed out and covered traces of the impact and left dark patches.

• Being thicker, the far side did not face such erasure and bears the marks of the crater impacts.

Way forward

• This mission could verify these theories and discover the reason behind these dichotomies.

• The moon’s far side also differs from the near side in that it is shielded from all the radio waves emanating from the earth.

• Communication devices and satellites have made it too noisy for radio astronomers to easily and accurately interpret signals.

• The near side of the moon also suffers from this problem of noise.

• On the other hand, a far side is a quiet place and a haven for earthly aspirations to set up a radio telescope that could reveal astronomical mysteries, such as the structure of the universe shortly after the Big Bang.

• China has now joined the U.S. and the former USSR as the only countries to have made a “soft landing” on the moon.

• But beyond underlining China’s technological advances, Chang’e-4 could herald a new chapter in lunar exploration.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Which of the following statement is/are correct in the context of Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF)?

A. It was launched on sidelines of United Nations General Assembly.

B. India is a founding member of GCTF.

Choose the correct option:

a) A only

b) B only

c) Both A and B

d) Neither A nor B

Correct Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) How the China’s moon mission will greatly advance knowledge of earth’s satellite?

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