Resident Weekly

A Exclusive Current Affairs Platform


China is Prepared to Begin the Lunar Far Side Sample Return Mission

In an effort to gather the first lunar far side samples, China unveiled the rocket for its Chang’e-6 mission early on Saturday.

On April 27, the eighth Long March 5 rocket was vertically moved to its launch pad at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center located on the island of Hainan.

The Chang’e-6 mission intends to land on the moon’s far side, an area that is never visible from Earth directly, gather up to 2,000 grams of lunar material, and then transport it back to the planet. This kind of endeavor has never been tried before.

Queqiao-2, a relay satellite, was launched in March. It is currently in a specially designed lunar orbit to help with communications between Earthly base stations and the Chang’e-6 on the other side of the moon.

The Chang’e-6 launch window has not yet been announced by Chinese authorities. Nonetheless, early Friday, May 3, launch is anticipated, according to navigational alerts.

Chang’e-6 is aimed towards the southern part of Apollo crater, which is situated on the far side of the moon at 150–158 degrees west and 41–45 degrees south. Apollo is located inside the massive, ancient South Pole-Aitken (SPA) impact basin, which may contain enticing answers to several moon mysteries.

From a technological, engineering, and scientific standpoint, the mission expands upon China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover and lander mission, which was made possible by the first Queqiao satellite and the 2020 Chang’e-5 nearside sample return.

According to Ge Ping, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center (LESEC), which is part of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), “Chang’e-6 aims to achieve breakthroughs in the design and control technology of the Moon’s retrograde orbit, intelligent sampling, take-off and ascent technologies, and automatic sample-return on the far side of the moon” (CNN, April 27).

“At present, the Long March 5 rocket and Chang’e-6 probe are in good condition. All preparations for the launch are progressing in an orderly manner, following normal working procedures.” 

The Long March 5 is a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen-powered rocket with a diameter of 5 meters and a height of 57 meters. Four kerosene-liquid oxygen side boosters are also used. This rocket is the biggest and most potent operational launch vehicle in China. Major missions such as the Tianwen-1 Mars mission and Chang’e-5 have been launched by it. The core stage, in contrast to its Long March 5B predecessor, will neither enter orbit or execute an uncontrollable reentry.

Chang’e-6 Spaceship

To accomplish its objectives, the Chang’e-6 mission will employ a stack of four spacecraft weighing a combined 8,200 kg.

The propulsion required to enter lunar orbit will be provided by a service module. On the moon’s far side, the lander will touch down and begin gathering samples. An ascent vehicle will launch these into lunar orbit and then reunite and dock with the service module. After then, the service module will return to Earth. After that, it will release a reentry capsule whose job it is to securely transport the samples through Earth’s atmosphere during a fast reentry.

The additional complication of Chang’e-6 is the need for a communications relay. China’s Deep Space Exploration Laboratory (DSEL) estimates that the mission will take 53 days from launch to landing. Mission Chang’e-5 lasted for 23 days.

If successful, the samples gathered will provide information about the solar system and the history of the moon. They might also contribute to the explanation of why the composition of the nearside and far side of the moon differs.

International research payloads from France, Sweden, Italy, and a Pakistani cubesat will also be part of the expedition. Chinese ambitions to increase international cooperation in space exploration are reflected in the collaborations.

The Detection of Outgassing RadoN (DORN) sensor, designed to identify radon outgassing from the lunar crust, is being supplied by France. Sweden will provide the “Negative Ions at the Lunar Surface” (NILS) payload with assistance from ESA. There will also be an Italian passive laser retro-reflector on board. Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and SUPARCO, Pakistan’s national space agency, collaborated to create the 7-kg ICUBE-Q cubesat.

China’s overarching objectives include a crewed lunar mission by 2030, of which Chang’e-6 is a part. Through the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) program, China hopes to create a permanent lunar outpost by the 2030s. Numerous nations and institutions have committed to the project.

error: Content is protected !!