Top NewsChina's Chang'e-6 lunar probe returns to Earth with historic distance models

China’s Chang’e-6 lunar probe returns to Earth with historic distance models

Hong Kong

of China The Chang’e-6 lunar module returned to Earth on Tuesday, successfully completing a historic mission to collect the first samples from the far side of the moon in a major step forward for the country’s ambitious space program.

The re-entry module “successfully landed” in the designated zone in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region shortly after 2pm local time, according to state broadcaster CCTV. A live feed carried by CCTV showed the module touching down via parachute, to a round of applause in the mission control room.

“The Chang’e-6 lunar probe mission has been a complete success,” Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said from the control room.

According to CCTV, a search team found the block minutes after it landed. The livestream showed a worker inspecting the block lying on the grass near the Chinese flag.

The successful mission is a major milestone in China’s “eternal dream.” revealed Many countries, including the United States, are ramping up their own lunar exploration programs in a bid to position the country as a dominant space power — by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In a congratulatory message on Tuesday, Xi hailed it as “another major achievement in building a strong country in space and science and technology”.

Beijing plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2030 and build a research base at the moon’s south pole – believed to contain water ice – where the US also hopes to establish a base.

The Chang’e-6 probe is expected to return to Earth with 2 kilograms of lunar dust and rocks from the far side of the moon, which will be analyzed by researchers in China before being opened up for international scientists to access. CNSA.

Chang’e 6 lunar rover/Weibo

The Chang’e-6 spacecraft can be seen raising the Chinese flag with a robotic arm on the far side of the moon in June.

The results of the analysis of the samples could help scientists retrace the evolution of the moon, Earth and solar system — while helping China aim to further exploit the moon’s resources for its exploration, experts say.

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The samples were collected using a drill and a robotic arm from a site in the sprawling South Pole-Aitken Basin, which formed about 4 billion years ago on a far side of the Moon that Earth has never known.

A climber then lifted them off the lunar surface and transferred them to a lunar re-entry vehicle, which then returned to Earth after separation from its lunar orbit.

The progress of Chang’e-6, China’s most technologically complex mission to date, has been followed with intense interest within the country since its launch on May 3.

Earlier this month, pictures of the lunar lander displaying the Chinese flag and drilling the character “Zhong” — short for China — into the lunar surface went viral on Chinese social media.

The lunar module Mars also comes after suspicious debris from a separate one Chinese rocket It fell to the ground in southwestern China on Saturday, sending off bright yellow smoke and sending villagers fleeing. videos on Chinese social media and relayed to CNN by a local witness.

The far side of the Moon has been a point of fascination for scientists since they first laid eyes on it. Grainy, black and white images Captured by the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 spacecraft in 1959 – it realized how different it was from the Earth-facing side.

There are no lunar maria, or the large, dark plains of cold lava that mark much of the moon’s near side. Instead, the far side appeared to show a record of the impact – covered with craters of varying sizes and ages.

Decades later, and about five years after the Chang’e-4 mission made China the first and only country to successfully complete a soft landing at a distance, scientists in China and around the world have high hopes for the information they can gather. From the samples.

“It’s a gold mine … a treasure chest,” said James Head, a professor of planetary geosciences at Brown University who, along with European scientists and Chinese scientists, examined samples from the Chang’e-5 project. . “International scientists are absolutely enthusiastic about the mission,” he said.

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Head pointed out that many traces of evolutionary history are being erased by shifting Earth’s plate tectonics and erosion, which have obscured the planet’s first billions of years, including the time of life.

“Because the Moon doesn’t really have plate tectonics on its surface — it’s really a frozen record of what our early solar system looked like,” he said, adding that understanding the makeup of the Moon can’t help us understand the Solar System’s past but study the future.

Although the stated focus of the Chang’e-6 mission is these broader scientific questions, experts say analysis of the samples’ composition and physical properties will help advance efforts to learn how to use lunar resources for future lunar and space exploration. .

“The (Chang’e-6) mission is focused on answering specific scientific questions, but lunar soil collected from the mission will support future resource use,” said Yuki Qian, a planetary geologist at the University of Hong Kong.

While lunar soil can be used for 3-D printing to produce bricks for building research sites on the moon, some scientists are already working on finding more economical and practical technologies to extract gases like helium-3, oxygen and hydrogen from the soil. It will further support lunar exploration, he said.

According to reports from CNSA officials, once the samples are received, Chinese scientists are expected to share data and conduct collaborative research with international partners.

International teams had to wait about three years to apply for access to samples from the Chang’e-5 program, but some early research on those samples was published from teams of Chinese and international scientists.

02:42 – Source: CNN

America and China are advancing in space exploration

Chang’e-6 — the sixth of eight planned missions in the Chang’e series — is widely seen as an important step toward China’s goal of putting astronauts on the moon in the coming years.

“Every step of the sample return mission process is exactly what you need to do to land and return humans to the moon,” Head said. “On the one hand, it’s a scientific mission, and no one should lose sight of the fact that the command and control aspects (are) necessary for things like human lunar exploration and sample return to Mars.”

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China’s ambitions to send astronauts to the moon have led the US to aim to launch a crewed “Artemis” mission as early as 2026 – the first such attempt by the US in more than 50 years.

NASA President Bill Nelson pointed to China’s pace of U.S. progress, telling lawmakers in April that the two countries are “effectively … in a race.”

“My concern is that they first (go to the South Pole) and then say, ‘This is our area, you stay out,’ because the South Pole of the Moon is an important area … We think, there’s water. There’s water, then there’s rocket fuel. ,” Nelson said.

China is seeking to dispel concerns about its ambitions, reiterating its position that space exploration should “benefit all mankind” and actively recruiting the country’s partners for its planned international lunar research station.

China and the United States are not only focused on national prestige, the potential scientific benefits, access to resources, and deeper space exploration that successful lunar missions could bring.

Last year, India landed its first spacecraft on the moon, while Russia’s first lunar mission in decades ended in failure when its Luna 25 probe crashed into the lunar surface.

In January, Japan became the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the moon, although its Moon Sniper lander ran into power problems due to an incorrect landing angle. The following month, the NASA-funded IM-1, designed by Texas-based private company Intuitive Machines, flew near the moon’s south pole.

China plans to launch its Chang’e-7 mission to the moon’s south pole in 2026, while Chang’e-8 will launch in 2028 to conduct experiments aimed at harnessing lunar resources in preparation for a lunar research station. Chinese space officials said earlier this year.

This story has been updated with additional updates.

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