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Mission to shed light on the dark side of the moon – Opinion

A Long March 5 rocket, carrying the Chang’e 6 spacecraft, blasts off from its launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in South China’s Hainan province, May 3, 2024. (Photo/Xinhua)

China launched its Chang’e 6 spacecraft on Friday to collect and return samples from the mysterious far side of the moon – the first attempt of its kind.

The samples from the far side of the moon will give scientists a better understanding of the environment and material composition of the far side of the moon.

The Chang’e 6 spacecraft, like its predecessor Chang’e 5, consists of an orbiter, a lander, a riser and a returner. According to the mission plan, after it reaches the moon, it will make a soft landing on the other side. Within 48 hours of landing on the moon’s surface, a robotic arm will be extended to scoop rocks and soil from the moon’s surface, and a drill will drill into the ground.

After the samples are sealed in a container, the lunar ascender will lift off and dock with the orbiter in lunar orbit. The returnee will then bring the samples back to Earth, landing in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China. The entire flight is expected to last about 53 days, according to the China National Space Administration.

The Chang’e 6 mission required new technological breakthroughs in areas such as the design and control of the lunar retrograde orbit, rapid intelligent sampling, and liftoff from the far side of the moon.

Notably, the Chang’e 6 mission carries four payloads developed through international cooperation, highlighting how China’s space program provides more opportunities for the world’s scientists and promotes international cooperation in space exploration. Scientific instruments from France, Italy, the European Space Agency and Sweden are on board the Chang’e 6 lander, and a small satellite from Pakistan is on board the orbiter.

More than 700 pounds of lunar samples have been collected during ten lunar missions conducted by the United States, the former Soviet Union, and China, all collected on the near side of the moon.

Remote sensing images show that the two sides of the moon are very different. The near side is relatively flat, while the far side is densely littered with asteroid impact craters of varying sizes and has far fewer lunar mares than the near side. Scientists also suspect that the moon’s crust on the far side is much thicker than that on the near side. But why that is the case remains a mystery.

– Xinhua News Agency