The Chang’e-4 launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in early December. The probe spent three days traveling to the moon and then a few weeks in orbit to prepare for its descent. Since the moon blocks radio transmissions, the Chang’e-4’s relay satellite was launched earlier this year. The Queqiao or “Magpie Bridge” is currently in the Halo orbit of the moon or 250,000 miles (400,000km) from Earth. Communications between the Chang’e-4 and the Queqiao were tested several times before the probe landed.
The Chang’e-4’s mission is to study the geological composition of the far side of the moon. The probe will collect and analyze minerals, study cosmic rays, observe the solar corona, and place potatoes, mustard seeds, and silkworms on the surface of the moon for observation. The lifeforms will be placed in containers with Earth-like environments, but they will be subject to weaker gravity.
This is not the first time China has landed a probe on the moon. The country successfully landed the Chang’e-3 in 2013, but its rover broke down within two months of landing. The main mission of the Chang’e-3 was to measure the depth of the lunar soil. The probe even discovered a new type of basaltic rock. It was the first probe to land on the moon since 1976.
China is not the only country or company that is interested in the moon. SpaceX is currently developing their Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) in hopes of pursuing long-duration space flights. Its first private passenger, Yasaku Maezawa, will get the chance to fly around the moon in 2023.