China’s space probe returns with rare Moon rocks

China’s lunar probe has returned to Earth with its first samples from the unexplored far side of the Moon.

Chang’e-6 landed in the Inner Mongolia desert on Tuesday, after a risky nearly two-month mission.

Scientists are eagerly awaiting Chang’e-6 because the samples could answer important questions about how planets form.

China is the only country to set foot on the far side of the Moon, having done so before 2019.

The far side – pointing away from Earth – is technically challenging to reach due to distance and the difficult terrain of giant craters and few flat surfaces.

Scientists are interested in this little-explored side because it is hoped it may contain traces of ice, which can be mined for water, oxygen and hydrogen.

The Chang’e-6 mission is a source of pride for a nation that has stepped up its mission to the Moon – attracting attention from rival America.

State media showed officials flamboyantly flying the Chinese flag shortly after the Chang’e-6 landed in the Inner Mongolia desert.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called to congratulate those at the command center of the Chang’e-6 mission.

Xi said he hopes they can continue to explore deep space and “reach new heights in unraveling the mysteries of the universe… to benefit humanity and development.” country”.

Chang’e-6 was launched from a space center in early May and successfully landed in a crater near the Moon’s south pole a few weeks later. Its mission lasted 53 days.

According to state broadcaster CCTV, the investigation will be sent to Beijing and samples will be taken there.

This is China’s sixth mission to the Moon and its second on the far side. The probe is named after the moon goddess Chang’e in Chinese mythology.

The probe used a drill and robotic arm to scoop up soil and rocks, take some photos of the surface and plant the Chinese flag.

Catherine Heymans, Scotland’s Royal Astronomer, hopes the samples will help test theories about how the Moon was formed 4.5 billion years ago and whether it was the result of a collision. encounter a very early version of Earth or not.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see this successful landing,” she told the BBC. “The geological activity on the Moon is very different on the near side and the far side and it’s a big question why we see those differences.”

She hopes the samples brought back will help researchers understand the composition of the Moon’s center.

“Is it like Earth? Could that confirm our theory that the Earth and Moon were once one?”

Beijing has poured huge resources into its space program over the past decade in an effort to catch up with both the US and Russia.

It aims to send a crew to the Moon by 2030 and plans to build a base at the lunar south pole.

The US also plans to send astronauts back to the Moon in 2026 with the Artemis 3 mission.

Analysts believe that the next space race will not just be about sending humans to the Moon – it will also be about who can assert ownership and control of resources on the Moon.

Additional reporting by Joel Guinto


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