China Launches Chang'e-6 Mission to Collect Lunar Samples from Far Side of the Moon

The goal of the mission is to collect about two kilograms of samples from the far side of the Moon and bring them back to Earth for analysis. It is a technically complex mission, which will last 53 days

by Sededin Dedovic
China Launches Chang'e-6 Mission to Collect Lunar Samples from Far Side of the Moon
© DW News / Youtube channel

China launched its Chang'e-6 mission on May 3, 2024 with the ambitious goal of collecting the first samples from the far side of the Moon. This marks a significant milestone in China's space exploration program and underscores its growing ambitions in this area.

The launch took place at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on the southern island of Hainan, with a Long March 5 rocket carrying the Chang'e-6 spacecraft into orbit. The event attracted considerable attention, with many people flocking to the beaches of Hainan to witness the historic moment.

Notably, the launch occurred during China's five-day Labor Day holiday, further underscoring its national significance. The Chang'e-6 mission marks a technically complex undertaking. It involves landing a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon, an area permanently hidden from Earth's view due to the Moon's tidal locking.

To overcome this obstacle and facilitate communication with the spacecraft, China launched the Queqiao-2 relay satellite in March, placing it in a special lunar orbit. The primary objective of the Chang'e-6 mission is to collect about two kilograms of lunar samples, including surface shavings and material drilled up to two meters below the surface.

These samples will then be transferred to an ascent vehicle and launched back to Earth, where they will undergo detailed scientific analysis. This endeavor is expected to take approximately 53 days. The Chang'e-6 spacecraft consists of four components: an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a return capsule.

Upon arrival at the Moon, the orbiter will remain in lunar orbit, while the lander will descend on the other side, specifically targeting the Apollo crater. Once it lands, the lander will begin collecting samples and conduct pre-departure tests.

After that, the ascent vehicle will lift off from the lunar surface, rendezvous with the orbiter and transfer the samples to the return capsule. Finally, the return capsule will return to Earth and land at a designated location at the Wenchang Space Launch Center.

China's Chang'e-6 mission is a testament to the nation's unwavering commitment to its space program. The ambitious endeavor reflects China's aspirations to compete with established space nations such as the United States and Russia.

In today's world, space exploration has become a key area of human progress. Many countries are investing significant resources in their space programs, seeking to expand knowledge of space and achieve technological progress.

China has steadily invested heavily in its military space program, achieving notable successes in recent years. The construction of the Tiangong Space Station is a prime example, with a new team of three astronauts arriving there just last week.

In addition, China successfully landed a rover on Mars and became the third country to send humans into space independently. The US has the longest and richest tradition in space exploration. Their agency NASA has the largest budget and has achieved a number of significant achievements, including sending men to the moon (Apollo program), building the International Space Station (ISS) and carrying out numerous space missions such as the Space Shuttle program, the Voyager and Mariner space probes and the robotic explorer on Mars (Curiosity and Perseverance) and much more.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the companys Dragon spacecraft is launched on a mission to the International Space Station with © NASA / Getty Images

While the United States aims to return astronauts to the moon through the Artemis III mission in 2026, China aims to achieve the same feat by 2030.

In 2020, China made history by returning lunar samples from the near side of the Moon, marking the first such achievement since the end of the US Apollo program in the 1970s. Analysis of these samples revealed the presence of water trapped in tiny particles of lunar dust, providing valuable insight into the composition and history of the Moon.

The Chang'e-6 mission marks another significant chapter in China's space journey. This paves the way for further scientific progress and potentially lays the groundwork for future human missions to the other side of the Moon.

China's space program has seen incredible growth in recent years. As China moves deeper into lunar exploration, we eagerly await the discoveries that the Chang'e-6 mission may bring to light. A number of countries such as India, Japan and the European Space Agency (ESA) are actively involved in space exploration, contributing to satellite launches, scientific missions and international cooperation.

In addition, private companies such as SpaceX are playing an increasing role in launching satellites and sending people into space, further diversifying the space industry. The United States is definitely the leader in this field, but Russia and China together currently occupy leading positions, the future of space exploration will probably take place within the framework of greater cooperation and the involvement of more countries, although due to the current complex global political situation, this is quite slowed down.