July 21, 2024

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The far side of China’s Chang’e-6 lunar probe begins its return journey

The far side of China’s Chang’e-6 lunar probe begins its return journey

Comment on the photo, The Chinese Space Agency said that the robotic vehicle waved the Chinese flag after completing the collection of samples

  • author, Francis Mao
  • Role, BBC News

China announced that its lunar probe successfully launched from the far side of the moon to begin its journey to Earth, carrying the first samples ever collected from that region.

State media say a module of the Chang’e-6 spacecraft, named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology, successfully lifted off at around 07:38 on Tuesday (23:38 GMT on Monday) to begin its return journey.

On Sunday, the vehicle landed near the south pole of the moon, in the first global achievement celebrated by the international scientific community.

China is the only country to have landed on the far side of the moon, and it also did so before in 2019.

The China National Space Administration described the mission as “an unprecedented achievement in human exploration of the moon.”

This side of the Moon – which is always far from Earth – is technically difficult to access due to its rugged terrain and deep craters.

China’s mission aims to be the first to return rock and soil samples from the region, which scientists say may be very different from the rock formations found on the near side of the moon.

On Tuesday, Chinese state media announced the module’s successful liftoff, citing the China National Space Administration as saying that the probe’s ascent module “launched from the surface of the moon.”

“The mission has withstood the high temperature test on the far side of the moon,” the space agency said.

After liftoff, the module then entered a “predetermined orbit around the Moon.”

The entire probe is scheduled to return in about three weeks to the landing site in Inner Mongolia.

Scientists in China will be given the first opportunity to analyze the rocks, and researchers around the world will later be able to apply for this opportunity as well.

The probe landed in a giant crater known as the Antarctic-Aitken Basin on Sunday. The crater is one of the largest known craters in the solar system.

Landing was risky, because it is very difficult to communicate with spacecraft once they reach the far side of the moon.

Chinese space authorities described the operation as involving “many engineering innovations, high risks and great difficulty.”

Video explanation, The video shows the Chinese probe landing on the far side of the moon

The mission aims to collect about 2 kg (4.4 lb) of material using a drill and a mechanical arm, according to the CNSA.

Experts previously told the BBC that there is a possibility of the presence of new rocks.

Professor John Burnett Fisher, a specialist in lunar geology at the University of Manchester, said: “Everyone is very excited that we may be getting a look at these rocks that no one has ever seen before.”

He has previously analyzed lunar rocks brought to the US Apollo mission and previous Chinese missions.

But he says the opportunity to analyze rocks from a completely different region of the moon could answer fundamental questions about how planets formed.

The Moon’s South Pole is the next frontier in lunar missions, with countries keen to understand the region because there is a good chance it has ice.

Access to water would greatly enhance the chances of successfully establishing a human base on the Moon for scientific research.

This is the second time that China has launched a mission to collect samples from the moon.

In 2020, Chang’e-5 returned 1.7 kg of material from a region called Oceanus Procellarum on the near side of the Moon.

In 2019, China became the first country to reach the far side with the landing of its Chang’e-4 plane.

China is planning three more unmanned missions this decade as it searches for water on the moon and investigates establishing a permanent base there.

Beijing’s broader strategy aims to see a Chinese astronaut walking on the moon by around 2030.

The United States also aims to return astronauts to the moon, with NASA aiming to launch the Artemis-3 mission in 2026.