Why China sent a probe to the moon

  • 04/01/2019

A space expert says there's great scientific interest in getting samples of new minerals on the far side of the moon.

A Chinese probe made the first ever landing on the 'dark side' of the moon on Thursday (NZ time).

The Chang'e-4 craft will be surveying the terrain and mineral make-up. China insists it's a peaceful mission of exploration, against US Defense Department claims it's a step towards the militarisation of space.

But Auckland Astronomical Society president Grant Christie says a rare element called helium 3 is potentially valuable for energy generation on Earth, and that might be what China is really after.

"The idea of setting up mining operations on the moon in the future, that's really part of this project in the long-term," he told RadioLIVE.

Mr Christie says China should receive international kudos for its efforts, not suspicion and condemnation.

"Where they've landed was once the site where a big asteroid crashed into the moon, buried itself deep inside and melted all that part of the moon, and presumably brought interior material up near the surface."

 A vehicle is set to explore the South Pole-Aitken basin's Von Karman crater.

Contrary to its name, the 'dark side' of the moon gets just as much sun as the other side. Its name comes from the fact the moon's orbit is exactly the same as its day, so one side always faces Earth and the other faces away.


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