China makes history and receives the first batch of samples from the far side of the Moon

China’s race to the moon continues to surprise

China’s space race is truly amazing. Just a few decades ago, the Asian giant did not have any of the necessary ingredients to eclipse space powers like the United States or Russia. Despite this, it has a strong financial infusion, an excellent engineering team and a secret operation (although it is also full of secrets). In recent years, China has developed a very complete plan with its own launchers, detectors, ships, rovers and even space stations.

Its lunar exploration program stands out with the impressive Chang’e probe, which has successfully returned to the Moon four times since its first controlled landing on the moon in 2013… the last of which will also go down in history. task. Today, June 25, 2024, the Chang’e-6 probe ends its 53-day journey and returns to the most unknown side of our natural moon. It launched on May 3, entered lunar orbit five days later, and landed on June 2, collecting samples from the far side of the Moon for the first time and returning them to Earth. As Julius Caesar said two thousand years ago: I came, I saw, I conquered.

The return capsule containing the samples parachuted over the Mongolian grasslands in northern China, and mission officials confirmed that it brought back about two kilograms of regolith and rocks from the satellite’s far side. According to previous geological studies, the samples come from the Aitken basin, an area near the south pole of the Moon where the oldest material on the lunar surface has been found.

Currently, the collected samples are being transported to a laboratory in Beijing, where they will be further investigated. Chinese authorities said that after initial analysis, the rocks would be handed over to researchers in other countries who request them.

But why is it so important to have samples of the hidden side of the satellite? The answer to this question is very broad. This is the first time we have a sample of the hidden side, as it is very different from historically explored areas like the Apollo program, which always ended on the visible side. Additionally, the collected material could provide information about why the near and far sides are so different, as well as clues about the history of the early solar system.

The two sides of our satellite are very different. Their formation and composition are still a mystery, and analyzing real examples from the hidden side (compared to those we already have from the visible side) could provide the key to resolving this discrepancy.

But it is also a very important milestone for the future. China is clearly competing with the NASA-SpaceX alliance to secure these unexplored territories. China’s next lunar exploration mission, Chang’e-7, set to launch in 2026, will challenge space infrastructure as it will include an orbiter, a lander, a mobile microprobe and a lunar rover.

A new mission to test the technology and resource use will follow, with Chang’e 8 continuing around 2028. It’s all a prelude to the first manned mission China hopes to carry out. Astronauts will arrive on Earth in 2030.

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