Updated May 3rd, 2024 at 16:06 IST

China Launches Historic Chang'e 6 Mission To Get Moon's Far Side Samples

China on Friday launched a lunar probe mission to collect samples for the first time from the far side of the moon and bring them to Earth for scientific studie

Reported by: Digital Desk
China rocket blasts off for far side of Moon | Image:Youtube Screengrab of launch
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Taiwan: China has launched a lunar probe on Friday to collect samples from the far side of the Moon, in what is being billed a world first. The Chang'e-6 mission is tasked with collecting and then returning samples from the moon's far side to Earth -- the first endeavour of its kind in the history of human lunar exploration, China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

The lunar probe was carried by a Long March-5 Y8 rocket which blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site on the coast of China's southern island province of Hainan. Chang'e 6 consists of four components: an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a re-entry module. After collecting dust and rocks on the moon, the ascender will transport the samples to the lunar orbiter for transfer to the re-entry module, which will carry them back to Earth.

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The CNSA said earlier that the mission is poised to make breakthroughs in key technologies, such as automatic sample collection, take-off and ascent from the far side of the moon. Meanwhile, the probe will carry out scientific exploration of the landing zone.

The CNSA has announced that scientific instruments from France, Italy and the European Space Agency/Sweden will be on board the lander of the Chang'e-6 mission and a Pakistani payload on the orbiter. A major space power, China in the past successfully launched unmanned missions to the moon which included landing a rover. China has also sent a rover to Mars. Earlier, China announced plans for a manned lunar landing by 2030.

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Chang'e-6 Mission

The Chang'e lunar exploration probe is named after the Chinese mythical moon goddess.

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The unprecedented mission would be the latest advance in the increasingly sophisticated and ambitious space exploration program that is now competing with the US, still the leader in space. China already landed a rover on the moon's far side in 2019, the first country to do so.

Free from exposure to Earth and other interference, the moon's somewhat mysterious far side is ideal for radio astronomy and other scientific work. Because the far side never faces Earth, a relay satellite is a needed to maintain communications.

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China in 2020 returned samples from the moon's near side, the first time anyone has done so since the US Apollo programme that ended in the 1970s. Analysis of the samples found they contained water in tiny beads embedded in lunar dirt.

China Space Missions

China built its own space station after being excluded from the International Space Station, largely because of US concerns over the Chinese military's total control of the space program amid a sharpening competition in technology between the two geopolitical rivals.

China's ambitious space program aims to put astronauts on the moon by 2030, as well as bring back samples from Mars around the same year and launch three lunar probe missions over the next four years. The next is schedule for 2027.

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Longer-term plans call for a permanent crewed base on the lunar surface, although those appear to remain in the conceptual phase.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, becoming the third country after the former Soviet Union and the US to put a person into space using its own resources.

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China has also said that it eventually plans to offer access to its space station to foreign astronauts and space tourists. With the ISS nearing the end of its useful life, China could eventually be the only country or corporation to maintain a crewed station in orbit.

--With Agency Inputs

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Published May 3rd, 2024 at 16:06 IST