China Launches Historic Lunar Mission To Collect Samples From Far Side Of The Moon

China launched an unmanned spacecraft on Friday to gather rocks and soil from the moon’s far side.

What Happened: The unmanned spacecraft was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island, Reuters reported. The Chang’e-6 probe, transported by China’s largest rocket, the Long March-5, is destined for the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the moon’s far side, which is perpetually hidden from Earth.

The Chang’e-6 mission’s objective is to collect and return lunar samples, positioning China as the first nation to attempt such an endeavor. This mission follows the successful Chang’e-5 in 2020, which marked the first human retrieval of lunar samples in 44 years.

Scientists, diplomats, and space agency officials from France, Italy, Pakistan, and the European Space Agency, all with moon-studying payloads aboard Chang’e-6, were present at the launch. However, no U.S. organizations applied for a payload spot due to U.S. law prohibiting collaboration with China’s space agency.

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The probe is expected to reach the moon’s orbit in four to five days and land in early June. It will then spend two days collecting 2 kilograms of samples before returning to Earth.

The Chang’e-6 mission is part of a long-term project to establish a permanent research station on the moon, the International Lunar Research Station, led by China and Russia. This station would serve as a base for China and its partners to conduct deep space exploration.

Why It Matters: The Chang’e-6 mission is one of three challenging endeavors that could pave the way for a Chinese crewed landing and the construction of a lunar base. This mission utilizes a backup spacecraft from the 2020 mission and a recently deployed relay satellite for communication during its 53-day mission.

In a strategic move to outpace China in the space race, the U.S. and Japan recently announced plans to send an astronaut to the moon by 2028, and another by 2032. This is seen as a direct challenge to China’s significant strides in space exploration.

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JB from Pixabay

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