For the first time a country will land a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon! Chang'e-4 will be the fourth mission in its series named after the Chinese moon goddess.

In October of 1959, the Luna 3 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Luna 3 was the third spacecraft to reach the Moon and the first to send back pictures of the Moon's far side. The pictures were noisy and indistinct, but because the Moon always presents the same face to the Earth, they offered views of a part of the Moon never seen before.
The far side of the Moon is surprisingly different. The most striking difference evident in the Luna 3 pictures is the absence of the large, dark seas of cooled lava, called maria, that cover a substantial fraction of the Earth-facing near side. The far side is instead densely peppered with impact craters of every size and age. Published: September 26, 2017. Credit: NASA
The two-part missions of Chang'e-4 will focusing on the low-frequency astronomy and the investigation of the subsurface, the topography and the mineralogical composition of the lunar far side.


The Chang'e-4 mission will start in June 2018 with the lift off of the relay satellite aboard the Long March 4C rocket. The spacecraft will be placed in halo orbit at the Lagrange-Point 2, at some 60,000 km behind the Moon. Its goal is to provide a communications link between Earth and the lunar far side surface.
In the same launch, 2 micro-satellites, named DSLWP-1A and DSLWP-2A (see below), will carry amateur radio payloads, micro-optimal cameras and instruments for pioneering astronomy at very low frequencies. These small satellites have a mass of about 45 kg each, with dimensions of 50x50x40 cm. 

Equipped with low frequency antennae and receivers, the micro-satellites will observe the sky at a very low frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum (1MHz-30MHz), which corresponds to wavelengths of 300m-10m. Their main goals is to learn about the energy phenomena from celestial sources.  To do so, they will fly in formation at variable distances of 1 to 10 km in an unspecified, elliptical lunar orbit.

Picture: The launch configuration of the second Chang'e-4 DSLWP micro-satellites. DSLWP stands for "Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths Pathfinder". The pair is likely to receive new names before launch.


Once the communication link is established with the Earth, China will send the second part of the Chang'e-4 mission: a lander and a rover to the far side's surface. Landing on the far side of the Moon is something no one has tried before, mainly because of the communications difficulty.

Stray radio signals from Earth are blocked by the shadow of the Moon. This will be overcome by the relay satellite. Once the lander and the rover are on the surface, they will be assisted by the relay communication sent to the satellite in the halo orbit.

Launched by the rocket Long March 3B, the lander will carry a Landing Camera (LCAM), a Terrain Camera (TCAM), a Low-Frequency Spectrometer (LFS), and a Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimeter (LLND). The rover will be equipped with a Panoramic Camera (PCAM), a Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), a Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), and an Advanced small Analyzer for Neutrals (NCLE).


The Chang'e-3 lander's picture taken by the Yutu Rover on Mare Imbrium . Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

CAST engineers working on the Chang'e-4 lunar lander and rover in 2018. Credit:CASC

The Yutu Rover's picture taken by the Chang'e-3 lander. Credit: CLEP/CNSA

The instruments and structures of the Chang'e-4 and the Chang'e-3 are almost identical because both landers were built at the same time. As a result, the Chang'e-4 spacecraft inherited the Chang'e-3's cameras, radar and imaging spectrometer. The remaining scientific components come from international partnerships with Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.

DSLWP-A1 carries an amateur radio payload developed by students at the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in northeast China. This radio can receive command (uplink) and download (downlink) telemetry data and digital images of public interest.

DSLWP-A2 carries a microcamera developed by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) of Saudi Arabia.


The Lunar Lander carries an aluminium alloy container filled with seeds and live insects to facilitate their study under the unique lunar conditions. These seeds are house potatoes seeds, Arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs.
The experiment assumes that, the eggs will become silkworms able to produce carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, it is also assumed that the potatoes and the Arabidopsis seeds will emit oxygen through photosynthesis. Those experiments should give an Ecosystem to the Moon.
Because the Moon's gravity is much lower than the Earth's, the experiments should answer some critical new questions about living in space on other planets. 

ASA Image: ISS021-E-006274 A close-up view of the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF). The SPACE SEED experiment is featured in this image photographed by the Expedition-21's crew member, in the Kibo laboratory on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA


Maps of the landing sites chosen by China for the Chang’E-4 lander/rover mission. The site is on dark, mare lavas that fill the crater von Karman. (Courtesy Dr. Phil Stooke, Univ. of Western Ontario) Credit:



Since Apollo's missions, China will be the first to bring back to Earth sample from the near side of the Moon. That will be the mission of Chang'e-5, probably in 2019-2020.
Chang’e 5 is China’s first lunar sample return mission and the most ambitious endeavor in the country’s lunar program, aiming to introduce completely new technologies and techniques such as a fully automated rendezvous in lunar orbit and sample transfers in between different spacecraft modules. 


ISECG space agencies envision that, by the mid 2020’s a Gateway in the lunar vicinity will open the space frontier for human exploration of the Moon, Mars and asteroids as we expand human exploration and commerce into deep space. The Gateway will support activities on and around the Moon while also serving as a technology and operations primary tests allowing human explorers to address the challenges and risks of deep space exploration and conduct scientific investigation of our Solar System.
Utilizing the Gateway with a partially reusable lunar lander (under study by JAXA, ESA and Roscosmos), human missions to the lunar surface are envisioned. 

These missions will also advance some of the capabilities and technologies needed for the exploration of Mars. Astronauts can advance the preparatory work of robotic missions in assessing the potential for resources on the lunar surface and techniques for using them to make exploration sustainable. 

The Global Exploration Roadmap represents a blueprint of thenext steps for the current and next generation of explorers. Governments, the private sector and academiawill determine investments and partnerships that can translate this blueprint into tangible progress extending human presence, with the associated benefits.

The Moon Village vision entails an incrementally growing ensemble of capabilities for multiple uses and will be open to multiple users.

The Global Exploration Roadmap affirms the interest of 14 space agencies to expand the human presence into the Solar System, with the surface of Mars as a common driving goal. It reflects a coordinated international effort to prepare for space exploration missions beginning with the International Space Station (ISS) and continuing to the lunar vicinity, the lunar surface, then on to Mars. The expanded group of agencies demonstrates the growing interest in space exploration and the importance of cooperation to realize individual and common goals and objectives.

Credit: The Global Exploration Roadmap, January 2018



Chandrayaan-2 is an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) trivia mission including an orbiter, a soft lander and a rover. Previously scheduled for April 2018, the lift off has been delayed to October 2018 aboard the ISRO's rocket GSLV Mark 2, or equivalent.
Its primary mission objective is to do a soft-land on the lunar surface at the South Polar region, situated between the 65° and 90° latitudes, and operate a robotic rover.

The scientific goals of the trivia mission are the studies of the lunar topography, the mineralogy, the elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.

The Orbiter will use a Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer (LASS) and a Solar X-ray Monitor (XSM) to map major elements present on the surface. Also, a L and S-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) will probe the first few tens of meters of the surface to detect the presence of different constituents, as water ice. A Imaging IR Spectrometer (IIRS) will map the surface over a wide wavelength range to study minerals, water molecules and hydroxyl.  For its part, the CHandra’s Atmospheric Composition Explorer (CHACE-2) will make detailed study of the exosphere and, a Terrain Mapping Camera-2 (TMC-2), make a three-dimensional map to study the mineralogy and the geology.

Near the landing site, the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), both placed inside the Rover, would perform elemental analysis on the surface.
Powered with a small solar panel, the Rover can communicate with the IDSN through its Lander Rover Communication System located inside the Lander, or through the Orbiter Rover Communication System of the Orbiter.

The Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) is a network of large antennas and communication facilities operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)to support the interplanetary spacecraft missions of India. 

The lander-orbiter pair will go into an initial elliptical Earth orbit (180 x 24000 km altitude), followed by a trans-lunar injection. Both craft go into an initial elliptical lunar orbit and, after orbit insertion, the lander and orbiter will be separated.
The Orbiter and the Lander will be stacked together and injected into an “Earth Parking Orbit”. After several Earth's orbits, the Craft will be inserted into an extremely elliptical Lunar orbit, until it reach 100 km over the moon after a number of orbits. At this moment, the Orbiter will survey the landing site before deploying the lander. Once ready, the Lander will separate and execute a soft landing on the surface.
The six wheeled rover is going to be semi-autonomous and its movements will be partially controlled by ISRO stations on Earth.
The present mission is an important step in India’s plans for the planetary exploration, a program known as the  Planetary Science and Exploration (PLANEX).
In October 2008, as part of the Indian Space Program, ISRO launched the Chandrayaan-1 mission on board a PSLV  rocket. There were a lunar orbiter and a lunar impactor. The impactor disturbed the surface at the landing site, and collected samples for analysis. This mission enabled India to become the fourth country to put its flag on the Moon, after the US, the former Soviet Union and Japan.