Chinese Chang’e-6 probe brings first samples of the far side of the Moon to Earth

(Xinhua/Lian Zhen)

BEIJING, June 25 (Xinhua) — The return module of China’s Chang’e-6 probe returned to Earth on Tuesday, bringing with it the first samples collected by humans on the far side of the Moon.

The return capsule precisely landed in the flag-designated area of ​​Siziwang in north China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region at 2:07 p.m. (Beijing time), operating normally, and the mission was declared a success. total, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Under orders from the ground control team, the return vehicle separated from the orbiter about 5,000 km over the South Atlantic.

The capsule entered the Earth’s atmosphere at around 1:41 p.m. at an altitude of about 120 km and a speed of almost 11.2 km per second.

After aerodynamic deceleration, it left the atmosphere and then began to glide in a downward line, and subsequently re-entered the atmosphere and began a second phase of deceleration.

About 10 km above the ground, a parachute opened, causing the vehicle to further reduce its speed and land smoothly and precisely in the predetermined area, where it was recovered by a search team.

The return vehicle will be airlifted to Beijing for opening, and the lunar samples will be handed over to a team of scientists for further storage, analysis and study, the CNSA explained.

Chang’e-6 is one of the most complex and challenging missions in China’s space exploration efforts to date. Composed of an orbiter, a lander, an ascent module and a return module, it was launched on May 3 of this year and went through several stages, such as the Earth-Moon transfer, near-Moon braking, lunar orbit and the separation of the lander-ascent module combination and the orbiter-return module combination.

Supported by the Queqiao-2 relay satellite, the combination lander-ascendant landed at the designated landing area in the Aitken Basin of the South Pole on the far side of the Moon on June 2 and kicked off. to sampling tasks.

On June 4, loaded with samples, the ascent module took off from the Moon and entered lunar orbit. On June 6, it completed rendezvous and docking with the orbiter-return module combination and transferred the samples to the return module. The ascent module then separated from the combination and descended back to the Moon, commanded by the control team on Earth, to avoid becoming space debris.

The orbiter-return module combination spent 13 days in lunar orbit, waiting for the right opportunity to return to Earth. After completing two Moon-Earth transfer maneuvers and one orbital correction maneuver, the return module separated from the orbiter and brought the samples to Earth.

Following its contribution to the Chang’e-6 mission, the Queqiao-2 relay satellite will choose appropriate times to carry out scientific detection work. Its payloads, which include an extreme ultraviolet camera, a neutral atom imager, and a very long baseline Earth-Moon interferometry experimental system, will collect scientific data from the Moon and deep space.

“The Chang’e-6 mission represents a significant milestone in the history of human lunar exploration, and will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of lunar evolution,” said Yang Wei, a researcher at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“New samples will inevitably lead to new discoveries. Fascination with the Moon is rooted in Chinese culture throughout the centuries, as evidenced by the mythological narrative of Chang’e, a lady who traveled and resided on the Moon. Now “Chinese scientists are eagerly waiting for the opportunity to contribute to lunar science,” Yang added.

Lunar samples previously brought back by the Chang’e-5 mission have already attracted access requests from international academics, and the process is underway. The Chang’e-6 lunar probe carried four international payloads that were jointly developed by Chinese and foreign scientists. It is conceivable that the openness of China’s lunar exploration activities will be reflected in the study of lunar samples from Chang’e-6, the researcher said.

Yang added that the cooperation of international scientists from different geographical and disciplinary backgrounds will bring rewards to the lunar scientific community and all of humanity.

(Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

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