Historic Moonlanding: Chinese Spacecraft Returns to Earth From Moon's Far Side

Written by Kathrine Frich

Jun.25 - 2024 9:23 AM CET

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
The Chinese spacecraft Chang'e-6, carrying samples from the far side of the Moon, is set to return to Earth on Tuesday

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Historic Mission Nears Completion

The Chinese spacecraft Chang'e-6, carrying samples from the far side of the Moon, is set to return to Earth on Tuesday after a challenging 53-day mission that could mark a global first. Due to its complexity, this mission is one of China's most ambitious space endeavors.

According to Digi24 The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has not announced an exact arrival time, but experts predict the spacecraft will likely land in the afternoon in a desert area of Inner Mongolia, northern China.

The far side of the Moon is a rarely explored region, invisible from Earth, and promising for research due to its rugged features less smoothed by ancient lava flows compared to the near side.

The samples collected by Chang'e-6, consisting of soil and rocks, could provide significant insights into the formation and history of Earth's natural satellite.

Pioneering Exploration and Sample Collection

The probe was launched into space on May 3 from the Wenchang launch center in the tropical island province of Hainan, southern China. About a month later, it landed in the vast South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System, located on the far side of the Moon.

Using a drill and a robotic arm, the probe collected the samples, took photographs of the lunar surface, and planted a red and yellow Chinese flag in the gray soil of the Moon's far side.

On June 4, the probe made history with the first successful launch from the far side of the Moon, placing the collected samples into lunar orbit where they have remained since. China's state news agency, Xinhua, described this achievement as "an unprecedented feat in lunar exploration history."

The mission required a Chinese relay satellite to ensure communication signals could be transmitted back and forth between Earth and the far side of the Moon.

China's Growing Space Ambitions

China has significantly expanded its space programs over the past 30 years, investing billions of euros to catch up with American, Russian, and European leaders.

In 2019, China became the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon. In 2020, it brought back samples from the Moon's visible side and completed its Beidou satellite navigation system. In 2021, China sent a small robot to Mars.

The Asian giant aims to launch its first manned mission to the Moon by 2030 and plans to build a lunar base. The United States is engaged in a rivalry with China over lunar exploration. Washington plans to send astronauts to the Moon by 2026 with the Artemis 3 mission.