China’s Chang’e-4 lunar mission will attempt the first soft-landing on the far side of the moon. The lander will carry a biosphere science payload that contains among other things, silkworm eggs, and potato and Arabidopsis seeds.
The payload itself is contained within a cylindrical container 18 cm tall and 16 cm wide with a volume of around 0.8 liters. In addition to the silkworm eggs, and potato and Arabidopsis seeds, the container will include water, air, and a nutrient solution.
Its hoped that with the addition of sun, the plants will grow producing oxygen and creating a suitable environment for the eggs to hatch. With the carbon dioxide and waste products from the silkworms, it’s hoped a small short-term ecosystem will develop allowing both the plants and the worms to thrive.
Progress will be monitored by a small camera built into the container. Images from the camera will then relayed to controllers on Earth.
Operating equipment on, and receiving signals from, the far side of the Moon is tricky as it never faces the Earth. In order to communicate with anything on the far side of the moon, a relay station needs to be set up first to allow communication between Earth and equipment on the surface. The success of the Chang’e-4 mission is, as a result, contingent on China first launching an as yet unnamed relay satellite in May or June.
Developed from repurposed backups from the Chang-3 spacecraft, The Chang’e-4 orbiter and lander will be launched later this year.
In addition to the lander, the Chang’e-4 lunar mission will also feature a rover. Inheriting much of its functionality from the Chang’e-3 Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover, the Chang’e-4 rover will carry a Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), Panoramic Camera (PCAM), an Advanced Small Analyser for Neutrals (ASAN), and a Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS).
Feature Image Credit: CNS