China’s Chang’e-6 lands on moon’s far side

China’s Chang’e-6 lands on moon’s far side

Chang'e-6 Landing

China’s Chang’e-6 lunar probe successfully landed on the far side of the Moon on Sunday, June 2, 2024.

The probe set down in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The Chang’e-6 is on a technically complex 53-day mission that began on May 3.

On Sunday, it descended from its orbit about 200 kilometers above the Moon to search for a suitable landing site. “The descent to a lower orbit carried a few risks, so we needed precise control procedures to put the probe onto its preset trajectory,” Huang Wu, an official at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, told state broadcaster CCTV. “After that, we had to rapidly reduce the probe’s relative speed to the Moon to zero within 15 minutes, requiring a huge amount of propellant, basically half the probe’s entire weight,” he added.

Now that the probe has landed, it will attempt to scoop up lunar soil and rocks and conduct various experiments in the landing zone. This process should be complete within two days, Xinhua News Agency reported. The probe will use two methods for collection: a drill to gather samples from beneath the surface and a robotic arm to collect specimens from the surface.

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Chang’e-6 lunar soil collection commences

Afterward, it must attempt an unprecedented launch from the side of the Moon that always faces away from Earth. Scientists say the Moon’s far side, often called the “dark side” because it is invisible from Earth, holds great promise for research as its craters are less covered by ancient lava flows compared to the near side.

Materials collected from this region may provide new insights into how the Moon formed. China has invested significant resources into its space programme over the past decade, aiming to close the gap with traditional space powers like the United States and Russia. Notable achievements include building a space station called Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace,” and landing robotic rovers on both the Moon and Mars.

China is only the third country to independently put humans in orbit. However, Washington has expressed concerns that China’s space programme may be masking military objectives and an attempt to establish dominance in space. China aims to send a crewed mission to the Moon by 2030 and plans to build a base on the lunar surface.

The United States also plans to return astronauts to the Moon by 2026 with its Artemis 3 mission.


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