China’s Chang’e-6 Mission Returns Historic Samples from the Moon’s Far Side


China has made history by becoming the first country to collect material from the far side of the moon and bring it back to Earth.

The Chang’e-6 lunar module successfully completed its mission and landed in Inner Mongolia on June 25, 2024, around 2 PM local time.

A Landmark Achievement

Named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, the Chang’e-6 mission was launched on May 3, 2024, from China’s Hainan province using a Long March V rocket.

After a month-long journey, it arrived at the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin on the moon’s far side on June 2.

The mission’s lander drilled and collected samples from this ancient and massive impact crater using a robotic arm.

These samples are particularly valuable because they come from a part of the moon that has remained untouched by Earth’s tidal influences, offering unique insights into the moon and Earth’s early history.

The Journey Back

After collecting the samples, the lander reconnected with the orbiter and began its return journey to Earth.

The mission’s success was celebrated by Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), who announced the achievement amid applause at the control room.

Hidden Surprises

Not everything about the mission was disclosed beforehand.

While the objectives and landing zone were known, the presence of a rover was only revealed when it was spotted in images released by the China Academy of Space Technology.

The rover, with its distinctive wheels, was attached to the side of the lander.

Scientific and Strategic Significance

Scientists are eager to analyze the returned samples to gain a better understanding of the moon’s history and its relationship with Earth.

The far side of the moon, more heavily cratered by asteroid impacts, serves as a preserved record of the early solar system, potentially revealing secrets about Earth’s formative years.

China is also interested in exploring the resources available on the moon, which could be crucial for future space missions.

NASA has expressed concerns over the competition to reach the moon’s south pole, a region believed to contain water that could be used to produce rocket fuel.

China’s Growing Space Ambitions

The success of Chang’e-6 is part of China’s broader ambitions in space exploration.

The country has recently landed rovers on both the moon and Mars and completed the construction of the Tiangong space station in 2022.

China is also leading efforts to build an International Lunar Research Station, expected to be completed by 2030.

As China and the U.S. race to explore and utilize the moon’s resources, the success of missions like Chang’e-6 marks a significant step forward in humanity’s quest to understand and explore our closest celestial neighbor.