China: Lunar Exploration Program Continues Successfully

China's Chang'e-6 space probe has arrived at the surface of the Moon's back side

China’s Chang’e-6 space probe has successfully performed a complex landing procedure on the surface of the Moon’s back side. As China’s official Xinhua news agency reported, “the operation, which is an integral part of the space program launched by Beijing in 2007, will extract lunar soil samples for the first time from the South Pole – Aitken Basin, one of the largest known craters on the Moon.” The South Pole – Aitken Basin is a huge meteorite crater about 2500 kilometers in diameter on the back side of the Moon.

The Chang’e-6 probe was launched on May 3. Once on the Moon’s surface, the Chinese probe will have to “stay in place for two days, collecting soil and lunar rock parts by drilling and sampling with a drill and a mechanical arm.” The goal of the mission, announced by the Chinese space agency, is to “collect useful elements to recover clues about the satellite’s origin, but above all, to understand whether a significant amount of frozen water may indeed be hidden in the satellite’s interior.”

The first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, was launched toward Earth’s natural satellite in 2007, followed by the second phase of Beijing’s ambitious lunar program in 2019, which saw the probe’s first landing on the hidden side of the Moon. In November 2020, the Chang’e-5 probe managed to deliver several lunar soil samples to Earth from the visible side of the Moon. China became the third country in the world, after the Soviet Union and the USA, to accomplish this kind of mission. China’s space program envisions a manned mission to reach the Moon within the next 5 years.