China’s Chang’e-4 will be the first spacecraft ever to land on the far side of the Moon. The mission will test plant growth and listen for radio emissions normally blocked by Earth’s atmosphere. Named after the mythical moon goddess Chang’e, the mission is due to land in the Aitken Basin of the south pole in early January.
The region is a vast impact region measuring some 2,500km in diameter and 13km deep, and it is the single-largest impact basin on the Moon and one of the largest in the Solar System. Because the Moon rotates around its axis at the same speed as it orbits the Earth, we never see the far side from the ground. The lack of direct sight means the mission requires a relay satellite to enable communications between Earth-based mission control and the spacecraft. A relay satellite, named Queqiao, was
launched in May to transmit signals.