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 China’s mission to the dark side infographic
Graphic explains the Chang’e 6 moon mission.


China’s dark side of the moon spacecraft returns home

By Ninian Carter

May 3, 2024 - June 25, 2024 - China’s Chang’e 6 uncrewed robotic spacecraft, designed to obtain the first-ever soil and rock samples from the lunar far side, has returned safely to Earth.

China’s Chang’e 6 robotic spacecraft has completed a technically demanding 53-day mission to the moon – landing safely back on Earth.

The craft comprised of four components – a Service Module, Lander, Ascent Unit and Return Vehicle. This is how it operates:

When the uncrewed probe reaches lunar orbit, the components separate into two parts, with the Service Module and Return Vehicle remaining in orbit while the Lander and Ascent Unit head to the moon’s surface.

The Lander-Ascender makes a soft landing south of the Apollo crater, near the moon’s South Pole and then uses a drill and a mechanical arm to gather lunar rocks and soil.

Once surface operations are completed, the Ascent Unit blasts off into lunar orbit, where it docks with the Return Vehicle and transfers the geological samples to it. They then fly back to Earth, using the Service Module, for study.

China is the only country to have landed on the Moon’s dark side (so named because the moon’s rotation means the same side always faces Earth), first doing so with the Chang’e 4 mission in January 2019. Now it’s done it again, only this time bringing samples back to Earth.

PUBLISHED: 03/05/2024; STORY: Graphic News