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


China to extract samples from moon’s dark side

By Ninian Carter

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

China’s Chang’e 6 robotic spacecraft will embark on a technically demanding 53-day mission comprising four components – a Service Module, Lander, Ascent Unit and Return Vehicle.

When the uncrewed probe reaches lunar orbit, the components will 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 will make a soft landing south of the Apollo crater, near the moon’s South Pole and then use a drill and a mechanical arm to gather lunar rocks and soil.

Once surface operations are completed, the Ascent Unit will blast off into lunar orbit, where it will dock with the Return Vehicle and transfer the geological samples to it. They will then be flown back to Earth by 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.

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