China’s Chang’e 6 probe lands on the far side of the Moon

For the first time from that area of the satellite, the automated spacecraft will collect soil samples and send them back to Earth in a return module

Technical staff working at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center
Technical staff working at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC). Efe/Xinhua

China’s Chang’e-6 probe managed to land on the far side of the moon on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua confirmed. Launched on May 3, it is an automated exploration vehicle whose objective is to collect samples from the lunar surface and send them to Earth, loaded into a small return module that the spacecraft has. The expected duration of the entire mission will be 53 days.

As detailed by the China Space Agency, the spacecraft – named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e – landed without problems on the surface of the Aitken Basin, a huge irregularly shaped impact crater about 2,000 kilometers in diameter and about 12 kilometers deep at maximum located on the far side of our satellite. that is, the one that is never visible from Earth.

The Chinese scientists stressed that this will be the first time samples have been collected from this little-explored area of the Moon. Chang’e 5, the previous mission in this series, which is part of China’s ambitious lunar exploration program, managed to send about two kilograms of stones back to Earth at the end of 2020. That spacecraft landed on the Oceanus Procellarum, near Mons Rümker, on the near side of the satellite.

Like its predecessor, Chang’e 6 consists of a lander and a sample return vehicle, mounted on top of the former. It was launched by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island.

Now on the surface, the spacecraft will have deployed the solar panels that power its systems, installed on the lander, and will begin collecting lunar dust and rocks, as well as conducting other experiments. This process should be completed within two days, Xinhua said. The probe will employ two collection methods: a drill to collect samples from the subsurface and a robotic arm to take samples from the surface.

Once the charge is complete, it will attempt an unprecedented launch from the far side of the Moon. Experts consider that this side “has great potential for research because its craters are less covered by the ancient lava flows of the near side,” according to the China Space Agency. The collected material can provide information about how the Moon formed.

China had already managed in 2019 to land a spacecraft on the far side, Chang’e 4, but did not collect any samples.



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