China's Chang'e-4 lunar rover takes off to explore far side of the moon
eijing [China], Dec 8 : China launched a rocket carrying the Chang'e-4 lunar probe rover to explore the far side of the moon early on Saturday, its state media said.
Although the Chinese authorities did not live telecast the launch, an unofficial live stream near the launch site showed the rocket rise from the launch pad until its flames resembled a bright star in the dark night skies, New York Times reported.
The lunar rover would provide a first close-up of the part of the moon that is eternally out of view from Earth.
Almost an hour later, Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, reported that Chang'e-4 was launched successfully. It is expected to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon most likely in early January next year.
Chang'e 4, which means goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology, comprises two parts -- the main lander weighing about 2,400 pounds and a 300-pound rover. It is expected to land in the Von Karman crater, located on the back side of the moon.
The lunar rover will study the structure of the rocks and the effects of the solar wind striking the moon's surface. It will also test the ability to make radio astronomy observations from the moon's far side, sans the noise effects from Earth.
The instruments on the rover and lander consist of special cameras, ground-penetrating radar and spectrometers to help ascertain the composition of rocks and dirt on the back side of the moon.
The moon rover will also be conducting a fascinating biology experiment to check whether plant seeds will develop and silkworm eggs will hatch on the low gravity environment of the moon, according to Xinhua.