The Chinese Chang’e 4 Lunar Mission

China Lunar Rover

The Chinese Chang’e 4 Lunar Mission is a robotic spacecraft mission, being part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.  It achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon on 3rd January 2019.  

The far side of the moon, China space mission
The Far Side of The Moon

The mission is the follow-up to Chang’e 3, the first Chinese landing on the Moon.  Like its predecessors, the mission is named after Chang’e, the Chinese Moon goddess.  The spacecraft was originally built as a backup for Chang’e 3 and became available after Chang’e 3 landed successfully in 2013. The configuration of Chang’e 4 was adjusted to meet new scientific and performance objectives. 

Chinese Lunar Lander

The Chang’e 4 mission was first scheduled for launch in 2015 as part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. But the adjusted objectives and design of the mission created delays, and the launch did not happen until 7th December 2018.

The spacecraft entered lunar orbit on 12th December 2018 and the orbit’s perilune was lowered to 15 km (9.3 mi) on 30th December that year.  

The Landing Module touched down on 3rd January 2019 at 02:26 UTC, shortly after lunar sunrise over the Von Kármán crater in the large South Pole-Aitken basin.

The Stages of The Chang’e 4 Lunar Mission

Stage 1             A communication relay satellite, Queqiao, was first launched to a halo orbit near the Earth–Moon L2 point in May 2018.  

China Lunar Rover

Stage 2             The robotic lander and Yutu-2 rover were launched on 7th December 2018

Stage 3            The spacecraft entered lunar orbit on 12th December 2018

Stage 4            Landing on the Moon’s far side on 3rd January 2019

The Phases of The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program 

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program was designed to be conducted in four phases of increasing technological advancement:

The first phase was simply reaching lunar orbit, a task completed by Chang’e 1 in 2007 and Chang’e 2 in 2010.

The second phase was landing and roving on the Moon, as Chang’e 3 did in 2013 and Chang’e 4 did in 2019.

The third phase is collecting lunar samples from the near-side and sending them to Earth, a task for the future Chang’e 5 and Chang’e 6 missions.

The fourth phase consists of development of a robotic research station near the Moon’s south pole.  The program aims to facilitate a manned lunar landing in the 2030s and possibly build an outpost near the south pole.  

This mission will attempt to determine the age and composition of an unexplored region of the Moon, as well as develop technologies required for later stages of the program.

Read more about Lunar Exploration