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China prepares Chang'e 6 to reach the far side of the moon

By Zhao Lei in Wenchang, Hainan | Xinhua | Updated: 2024-05-01 18:19
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Photo screens from a simulated animation showing the Chang'e 6 probe. [Photo/VCG]

Chang'e 6, China's next spacecraft to venture to the moon, has been scheduled to set out on its journey on Friday, tasked with bringing back samples from the moon's little-known far side, the China National Space Administration said in a news release.

A Long March 5 carrier rocket, with the 8.3-metric-ton Chang'e 6 probe on top of it, will soon be injected with propellants at its launch service tower at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, the administration said, adding that the coming flight will become the second time for the Long March 5 rocket model to lift a lunar mission.

Chang'e 6 was transported to the launch center in January, while the Long March 5 rocket arrived in March.

They were assembled and tested at the spaceport.

If everything goes according to plan, after entering its moon-bound trajectory, Chang'e 6 will make a series of flight maneuvers before landing in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon.

Like Chang'e 5, its predecessor, Chang'e 6, is a product of the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing and also consists of four components: an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a reentry module.

After collecting dust and rocks on the moon, the ascender will transport the samples to the lunar orbiter for transfer to the reentry module, which will carry them back to Earth.

Meanwhile, scientific instruments on the lander will continue to perform their operations as long as they have sufficient power.

The United States, the former Soviet Union and China have returned lunar samples to Earth, but none have obtained soil from the far side of the moon.

Although the far side had previously been photographed by spacecraft, no probe has ever landed on it until January 2019, when China's Chang'e 4 mission landed in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

China's most recent lunar mission, Chang'e 5, took place in late 2020 and lasted 23 days. It was the country's first lunar sample-return mission and one of its most sophisticated and challenging space endeavors.

The landmark mission retrieved 1,731 grams of rocks and soil, becoming the first lunar exploration program to bring back samples from the moon since the Apollo era in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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