China launches mission to far side of moon

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China's Chang'e-6 spacecraft launches on a historic mission to the far side of the Moon to collect samples for return to Earth

China launches mission to far side of moon

On Friday, China successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft on a pioneering two-month mission to collect rocks and soil from the far side of the Moon, the first of its kind in any country.

China's largest rocket, the Long March-5, lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island at 5:27 Beijing time (9:27 a.m. GMT), carrying the Chang'e-6 probe weighing more than 8 metric tons.

Chang'e-6's mission objective is to land in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, a region on the far side of the Moon permanently hidden from Earth's view, and collect samples for return to Earth.

This landmark launch represents another significant achievement in China's lunar and space exploration efforts.

French researcher Pierre-Yves Meslin, who took part in the Chang'e-6 mission, expressed admiration for China's rapid progress in space exploration.

"It is a bit of a mystery to us how China has been able to develop such an ambitious and successful programme in such a short time," he said.

Foreign payloads onboard

Foreign payloads from countries such as France, Italy, Pakistan and the European Space Agency are on board Chang'e-6, underscoring international cooperation in lunar exploration.

Neil Melville-Kenney, a technical officer at ESA, emphasized the lure of the Moon's far side, which remains largely unexplored except by robotic probes and a handful of human missions.

The probe, which will reach the Moon's orbit in four to five days, will land in early June and collect samples for two days before returning to Earth, where it is expected to land in Inner Mongolia.

The mission's focus on the South Pole-Aitken Basin, estimated to be around 4 billion years old, promises to provide valuable insights into the Moon's geological history.

Lunar station

Chang'e-6 also plays a vital role in advancing China's long-term goal of establishing a permanent research station on the Moon, known as the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), in cooperation with Russia.

This ambitious project aims to facilitate deep space exploration and potentially harness lunar resources for future scientific and commercial ventures.

Wu Weiren, chief designer of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Project, emphasized the strategic importance of the Moon in space exploration at the 2024 China Space Conference last month, outlining plans to build a “basic model” of the ILRS by 2035.

Source: Reuters

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