The Chinese probe 'Chang'e 6' brings samples from the far side of the moon to Earth for the first time in history | Science

The far side of the moon, the hemisphere of our satellite that we never see from Earth, was an absolute mystery until the Soviet probe Lunik 3 took his first photo in 1959. China followed six decades later the first country to land a robot ship in that unexplored area, a feat that no other country has matched. Today, the Asian giant reached another milestone, successfully completing its most complex robotic lunar mission to date Change 6with which he managed to land on the moon in the most remote part of the star, collect two kilograms of moon rocks, transfer them to the return module and transport them to our planet, within the planned period of 53 days.

Scientists hope these samples will shed light on the origins and evolution of not only our nearest celestial body, but of the entire solar system, while many analysts expect the mission to have important strategic and geopolitical implications. Beijing is determined to do that consolidate its presence in the cosmos and sees its space program as a fundamental pillar of its plan to become a major economic, technological and diplomatic power of the 21st century.

The probe Change 6 landed back without incident at Inner Mongolia's Siziwang flag, in the north of the country, at 2:07 pm local time (8:07 am Spanish peninsula time), as reported by the China National Space Administration. Footage broadcast by Chinese state TV CCTV showed the capsule containing the samples descending by parachute from the clear blue sky until it fell into the steppes, where scientists collected it.

The moon's most distant hemisphere looks very different from what we see from Earth, with an older, thicker crust and many more craters. Experts believe that the samples obtained during this mission may have a different chemical composition than those recovered from the most visible side. about the American Apollo missions and Luna (launched in the 1960s and 1970s, in the middle of the Cold War) or in China's Chang'e 5 (2020). For this reason, they believe that their analysis can help understand why the two sides are so different, and they hope that the results will provide new clues about the formation of celestial bodies. “They are expected to answer one of the most fundamental scientific questions in lunar research: What geological activity is responsible for the differences between the two faces?” Zongyu Yue, a geologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, wrote in a declaration.

The probe Change 6 took off on May 3 aboard the country's most advanced rocket model, the Long March 5, and landed on June 2 in the Apollo impact crater, about 520 kilometers in diameter, located in the vast Aitken Basin of the moon's south pole. This gigantic lunar depression (2,500 kilometers in diameter and 12 kilometers deep) was formed about 4,000 million years ago and is believed to contain frozen water, a resource that could be crucial for manned missions. The moon's south pole is, in fact, the new target for exploration, as access to water would significantly increase the chances of successfully establishing a human base on the moon.

In addition to the maneuvering difficulties caused by the topography of the terrain, the technical complexity of the mission was compounded by the fact that communication with the probe could not be direct, as the moon's own mass causes the modules to lose signal. Although much of the process is automated, communications for the moon landing and moon takeoff have been facilitated thanks to the broadcast satellite Queqiao 2which was released in March.

To carry out the sampling, the rover explorer drilled into the ground with a drill and collected the two kilos of stones and dust from the surface and subsurface with a robotic arm. After the process was completed, the probe extended a robotic arm to raise the red five-star flag (the national one), according to the animations published by the space agency. The ascent module took off on June 4, taking the capsule with the materials and docking with the system, which remained in orbit two days later.

The program Change, aimed at the exploration of our satellite, is named in honor of a goddess who, according to Chinese tradition, inhabits the moon. The first mission of this project was launched in 2007 and has achieved great achievements over the past five years. In 2019, the Change 4 It was the first probe to land on the far side of the moon. A year later, with the Change 5the Asian giant became the third country to transport lunar material, something that until then only the United States and the Soviet Union had achieved.

But the ambitions of Beijing, which has been investing billions of euros in its space exploration projects for years, go much further. In 2026, it plans to… Change 7 to study the resources of the moon's south pole and, in 2028, the Change 8 will launch the mission to monitor how these resources should be used on sight and put their most advanced technology to the test. Moreover, it is the goal send some taikonauts –Chinese astronauts– to the moon's surface before 2030.

Developing its capabilities to access lunar resources (such as water ice, helium-3 and rare earth elements) would demonstrate China's maturity as a space power and consolidate its attractiveness as an international partner in complex missions. The fact that the Change 6 The launch on the announced date adds reliability to China's timelines for its planned future missions.

The program Change It also paves the way for the establishment of the International Lunar Research Station (ISIL), the base being developed by the Chinese Space Administration and Russia's Roscosmos and scheduled for construction in the early 2030s Change 6 China has received cooperation from the European Space Agency (ESA), France and Italy, but for now the European side has not made a decision on whether this cooperation will be maintained in other projects. It is known that it will not participate in ISIL as space cooperation with Russia is currently under embargo.

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