Recently, China launched a Chang’e-6 Lunar Probe mission to collect samples for the First Time from the far side of the Moon.

Key highlights

  • This marks the first such mission in human lunar exploration history, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). 
  • The Long March-5 Y8 rocket carried the lunar probe, which lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in China’s Hainan province. 
  • The CNSA anticipates breakthroughs in key technologies, including automatic sample collection and take-off from the moon’s far side. 
  • Additionally, the probe will conduct scientific exploration at the landing site. 
  • The lander will host scientific instruments from France, Italy, and the European Space Agency/Sweden while a Pakistani payload will be aboard the orbiter.
  • China has previously achieved milestones such as unmanned moon missions with rover landings and Mars rover deployments. 
  • China is also planning a manned lunar landing by 2030.

About Chang’e

  • Since 2007, China’s space program has been actively engaging in lunar exploration with a series of missions that include orbiters, landers, rovers, and spacecraft designed to return samples to Earth. 
  • Chang’e 1 & 2 (2007 onwards): Launched orbiters to map the lunar surface with high-resolution imagery.
  • Chang’e 3 (2013): Deployed the Yutu rover to explore 3 sq. km of the moon over 90 Earth days, analyzing the elemental composition and subsurface.
  • Chang’e 4 (2018): Focused on the moon’s southern shadowed regions, landing in the Von Karman crater to study the far side’s surface composition with advanced instruments.
  • Chang’e 5 (2020): Aimed to return lunar regolith samples to Earth, successfully bringing back 1.731 kg of material.

Chang’e-6 Lunar Probe mission: 

  • Mission aims to retrieve samples from the moon’s far side for scientific analysis on Earth. 
  • The mission architecture is similar to that of China’s first-ever lunar sample-return mission, Chang’e 5.
  • It comprises an orbiter, a lander, an ascender, and a re-entry module, as reported by China Daily. 
  • After collecting lunar dust and rocks, the ascender will transport samples to the orbiter for transfer to the re-entry module, which will bring them back to Earth.

Upcoming Lunar Missions 

  • NASA-led Artemis II, the first crewed mission around the Moon is scheduled to launch in September 2025.
  • Artemis III, planned to land astronauts near the lunar South Pole, for September 2026. 
  • Artemis IV, the first mission to the Gateway lunar space station, remains set for 2028.
  • India’s next lunar mission, Chandrayaan-4, also known as LUPEX, is set to launch in 2028, in collaboration with Japan. 
  • LUPEX will pave the way for India’s ambitious lunar sample return mission. 
  • Furthermore, ISRO aims to send Indian astronauts to the moon by 2024.

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