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China’s Chang’e-6: Soil Samples from Moon’s Far Side Orbited

The take-off module of the Chinese automatic interplanetary station Chang’e-6 lifted into satellite orbit samples of soil collected on the far side of the Moon. This is a new chapter in the history of earthly astronautics. Scientists have not yet had samples from the side of the satellite invisible from Earth.

The station performed a significant volume of operations in automatic mode. Instructions were also transmitted from Earth, which reached the device thanks to the Queqiao-2 relay satellite. To eliminate accidents when collecting samples, the same environment on Earth around an exact copy of the landing module was reproduced as around the Chang’e-6 module on the Moon. Sample collection began with drilling, after which the robotic arm added samples of soil and rocks from the lunar surface.

In total, about 2 kg of samples were collected. They were sealed in a sealed capsule and placed in the take-off module. The module lifted the capsule into lunar orbit, where it would later dock with the orbital and return module. Then, within about three weeks, the images will be delivered to Earth – they will be dropped in a capsule in northern China.

The Chang’e-6 mission launched on May 3, 2024. On May 9, the station entered lunar orbit. The lunar landing took place on June 2. The lander landed in the Apollo Basin inside the South Pole-Aitken Basin. This is one of the oldest impact craters on the moon. Samples from it will tell a lot about the early stages of the geological history of the Moon. And if this is not enough, the Chang’e-6 mission was a significant step forward in the technological development of astronautics.

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