China’s lunar exploration: What to expect from Chang’e-6 mission

China’s Chang’e-6 probe landed on the far side of the moon on Sunday at 6:23 a.m. Beijing Time, aiming to collect samples from the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin within two days, which will be brought back to Earth, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Supported by the Queqiao-2 relay satellite, the lander-ascender combination of the Chang’e-6 probe landed at the designated landing area in the SPA Basin. The mission has made technological breakthroughs, including lunar retrograde orbit design and control technology. It will go on to complete key tasks such as the intelligent, rapid sampling from the lunar far side and lunar surface take-off, said the CNSA.

Chang’e-6’s mission is to collect and bring back to Earth samples from the mysterious far side of the moon. The probe will go through 11 stages on the 53-day mission before bringing the precious lunar soil to Earth. Since its launch on May 3, it has gone through various stages such as Earth-moon transfer, perilune braking, lunar orbiting and landing descent.

“After the sampling is completed, the ascender carrying the collected lunar soil will take off from the far side of the moon to dock with the orbiter-returner combination. The moon samples will be handed over to the returner. When the orbiter-returner combination comes near the Earth, the returning capsule will separate. In a ‘hopping’ move, the returner will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land in Siziwangqi, Inner Mongolia,” said Wang Qiong, a deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-6 mission.

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China’s Chang’e-6 lands on far side of moon to collect samples