China is once again on the threshold of a historic first in its fast-paced exploration of Earth’s moon. Having sent three previous missions moonward since 2007, including one that hosted the nation’s first-ever robotic lander and rover, China’s latest lunar foray began in the early hours of December 8, 2018, when a Long March-3B carrier rocket launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, carrying the Chang’e-4 spacecraft.
Elon Musk comments on Twitter: “Amazing space progress by China. This year they did more orbital launches than the USA for the first time.”
As for what he hopes Chang’e-4 might uncover, Head notes that any mission to the lunar farside is essentially to “Luna Incognita,” and thus inevitably will lead to new discoveries. “Exploration is investigating the unknown, and the demonstration that we can land and explore the lunar farside, particularly the South Pole-Aitken basin, is a fundamental accomplishment, the first steps, a foothold on a new ‘continent.’ Just as it is hard to predict the future, it is hard to predict the results from exploration of the unknown. That’s why we explore!”