close
close

China launches Chang’e-6 to recover samples from the far side of the Moon: Xinhua

A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e-6 spacecraft, lifts off from its launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, May 3, 2024. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)

WENCHANG, Hainan, May 3 (Xinhua) — A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e-6 spacecraft, lifted off on Friday from its launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site on the coast of the island province of Hainan, in southern China. late.

The Chang’e-6 mission is tasked with collecting and returning samples from the moon’s mysterious far side, the first such effort in the history of human lunar exploration.

“Collecting and returning samples from the far side of the Moon is an unprecedented feat. We now know very little about the far side of the Moon. If the Chang’e-6 mission can achieve its goal, it will provide scientists with the first evidence “direct to understand the environment and material composition of the far side of the Moon, which is of great importance,” said Wu Weiren, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program.

The Chang’e-6 spacecraft, like its predecessor Chang’e-5, consists of an orbiter, a lander, an ascent module, and a return module.

After reaching the Moon, it will make a soft landing on the opposite side. Within 48 hours after landing, a robotic arm will extend to collect rocks and soil from the lunar surface, and a drill will drill into the ground. Simultaneously, scientific detection work will be carried out.

Once the samples are sealed in a container, the ascender will lift off from the moon and dock with the orbiter in lunar orbit. The repatriate will then take the samples back to Earth, landing in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China. The entire flight is expected to last about 53 days, the China National Space Administration said.

Since the Moon’s revolution cycle is the same as its rotation cycle, it always faces the Earth in the same direction. The other side, most of which cannot be seen from Earth, is called the far side or “dark side” of the Moon. This term does not refer to visible darkness, but rather to the mystery that shrouds the moon’s largely unexplored terrain.

Remote sensing images show that the two sides of the Moon are very different. The near side is relatively flat, while the far side is densely dotted with impact craters of different sizes and has far fewer lunar mares than the near side. Scientists deduce that the lunar crust on the far side is much thicker than that on the visible side. But it remains a mystery why this is so.

An impact crater known as the Apollo Basin, located within the South Pole Aitken Basin (SPA) on the far side of the Moon, has been chosen as the primary landing and sampling site for the Chang’e-6 mission, according to Wang Qiong, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-6 mission.

The colossal SPA Basin was formed by a celestial collision more than 4 billion years ago and has a diameter of 2,500 kilometers, equivalent to the distance from Beijing to Hainan, and a depth of about 13 kilometers. It is the largest and oldest impact crater on the Moon and in the solar system, and may provide the earliest information about the Moon, scientists say.

“First-hand direct samples of the far side of the Moon are essential to give us a deeper understanding of the characteristics and differences of the two sides of the Moon and to reveal the secrets of the Moon,” said Zeng Xingguo, a scientist at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“The entire mission is fraught with numerous challenges, and each step is interconnected and nerve-wracking,” Wang said.

To achieve communication between Earth and the probe on the far side of the Moon, China earlier this year sent the Queqiao-2 relay satellite, whose name translates as “magpie bridge-2,” into lunar orbit. frozen highly elliptical.

Although the Chang’e-4 mission achieved the world’s first soft landing on the far side of the Moon in 2019, Chang’e-6 still faces significant risks as the rugged terrain of the far side of the Moon poses great challenges to its landing, space. the experts say.

The Chang’e-6 mission needs to see new technological advances in areas such as retrograde lunar orbit design and control, rapid intelligent sampling and takeoff from the far side of the Moon, Wang said.

“The number of samples that Chang’e-6 can collect is uncertain and cannot be accurately estimated at this time. Our goal is to collect 2 kilograms,” said Deng Xiangjin, a space expert with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. .

The Chang’e-6 mission carries four payloads developed through international cooperation. Scientific instruments from France, Italy and the European Space Agency/Sweden are on board the Chang’e-6 lander, and a small satellite from Pakistan is on board the orbiter.

A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e-6 spacecraft, lifts off from its launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, May 3, 2024. (Xinhua/Zhang Liyun)

A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e-6 spacecraft, lifts off from its launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, May 3, 2024. (Xinhua/Zhang Liyun)

People wait to watch the launch of the Chang’e-6 lunar probe in south China’s Hainan Province, May 3, 2024. A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e spacecraft -6, lifted off from its launch pad at Wenchang Space Launch Site off the coast of southern China’s island province of Hainan on Friday afternoon. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e-6 spacecraft, lifts off from its launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, May 3, 2024. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

A Long March-5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e-6 spacecraft, lifts off from its launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, May 3, 2024. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)

This photo taken on May 3, 2024 shows the combination of the Chang’e-6 lunar probe and the Long March-5 Y8 carrier rocket at the Wenchang space launch site in south China’s Hainan Province. The Chang’e-6 lunar probe is scheduled to be launched between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. (Beijing time) on Friday, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)