Chang’e-6 Mission Successfully Returns First Samples from the Lunar Far Side

Change 6 Mission Returns First Moon Samples from Far Side | CIO Women Magazine

Source – Moneycontrol

The Change 6 Mission return capsule reentered Earth’s atmosphere early Tuesday, safely delivering unique lunar material expected to provide valuable insights into the moon’s evolution. The roughly 300-kilogram capsule, separated from the mission service module 5,000 kilometers away from Earth, performed a skip maneuver over the Atlantic Ocean at 1:41 a.m. Eastern (0541 UTC) on June 25 to decelerate before its final descent. Containing around 2 kilograms of lunar material drilled and scooped from the Apollo crater on the moon’s far side, the reentry capsule landed in the grasslands of Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia, at approximately 2:07 a.m. Recovery teams promptly secured the capsule shortly after its landing.

This milestone event marks the culmination of a five-spacecraft, 53-day mission aimed at collecting the first-ever samples from the lunar far side and delivering them to Earth. The retrieved samples will enable extensive research into the composition and evolution of the moon’s far side, potentially offering new insights into the distinct differences between the near and far sides of the moon and providing clues about the history of the early solar system.

Scientific Significance and Global Collaboration

“Change 6 Mission is the first mission in human history to return samples from the far side of the moon, which is a cause for celebration for all humanity,” stated Long Xiao, a planetary geoscientist at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan. The excitement is palpable among scientists worldwide, as the analysis of these samples is expected to address significant lunar science questions and provide valuable insights.

Supported by the Queqiao-2 lunar relay satellite launched in March, the Change 6 Mission embarked on its journey on May 3, launching from the Wenchang spaceport aboard a Long March 5 rocket. The four-spacecraft stack entered lunar orbit in under five days, and on June 1, its lander-ascent vehicle combination touched down at 41.6385°S, 206.0148°E in the Apollo crater, located within the vast and scientifically intriguing South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin.

“The Moon’s geological features are highly uneven. The far side of the moon differs significantly from the near side,” explained Long. “The far side, affected by the South Pole-Aitken basin impact and lacking extensive maria regions, suggests that its geological evolution process is different from that of the near side.” The SPA basin, a gigantic impact crater, is believed to have excavated material from the moon’s interior, making it a key area for understanding the moon’s geological history.

Future Missions and International Collaboration

Following the successful return of the Change 6 mission capsule, the mission’s service module is expected to have fired its engines to avoid reentering the atmosphere, potentially embarking on an extended mission similar to the 2020 Chang’e-5 lunar nearside sample return mission.

China is already planning its subsequent lunar missions, including the multi-spacecraft Chang’e-7 in 2026 and the Chang’e-8 in-situ resource utilization and technology test mission around 2028. These missions are described as precursor missions to the China-led International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), with super heavy-lift launches in the early 2030s intended to construct the ILRS. Before this ambitious construction, China aims to send a pair of astronauts to the lunar surface before 2030.

The ILRS project has garnered international interest, with several countries and organizations signing up to collaborate. This international effort underscores the global significance of lunar exploration and the potential for collaborative advancements in space science and technology.



Related Posts