China’s Chang’e-6 spacecraft has successfully landed on the far side of the Moon, China has announced

China’s unrecruited spacecraft claims to have successfully landed on the far side of the moon — an unexplored place no one has attempted to go.

Chang’e 6 touched down in the South Pole-Aidken Basin at 06:23 Beijing time on Sunday morning (22:23 GMT Saturday), the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

Launched on May 3, the mission aims to collect precious rock and soil from the region for the first time in history.

The probe could extract some of the moon’s oldest rocks from a large crater at its south pole.

The landing was fraught with danger, as it was very difficult for spacecraft to communicate once they reached the far side of the moon. China was the only country to achieve this feat before the Chang’e-4 landing in 2019.

After launching from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, the Chang’e 6 spacecraft orbited the moon and waited for landing.

The lander portion of the mission separated from orbit to touch down on the side of the Moon that permanently faces Earth.

During landing, an automatic visual obstacle avoidance system was used to automatically detect obstacles, select a relatively safe landing area based on the brightness and darkness of the lunar surface through a visible light camera, CNSA was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua. news agency.

The lander hovered about 100 m (328 ft) above the safe landing area and used a laser 3D scanner before making a slow vertical descent.

The operation was supported by the Queqiao-2 relay satellite, CNSA said.

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Chinese state media described the successful landing as a “historic moment”.

“Applause broke out at the Beijing Space Flight Control Center” when the Song’e lander touched down on the moon early Sunday morning, the state broadcaster said.

In a process that CNSA said involves “many engineering innovations, high risks and great difficulties”, the lander will have to collect materials from the surface for up to three days.

Professor John Burnett-Fisher, an expert in lunar geology at the University of Manchester, said: “Everyone is very excited that we are seeing these rocks that no one has seen before.

He has studied other lunar rocks brought back by the American Apollo mission and earlier Chinese missions.

But the chance to analyze rock from a completely different part of the moon could answer fundamental questions about how planets form, he says.

Most of the rocks collected so far are volcanic, similar to what we might find in Iceland or Hawaii.

But distant matter has a different chemistry.

“How do planets form, why do crusts form, and what is the origin of water in the solar system?” It will help answer big questions like Professor says.

According to CNSA, it aims to collect about 2kg (4.4lb) of material using a drill and mechanical arm.

The South Pole-Aitken Basin, an impact crater, is one of the largest known in the Solar System.

From there, Prof Burnett-Fisher says the probe will be able to collect material from deep within the Moon’s crust, the Moon’s inner core.

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The moon’s south pole is the next frontier in lunar exploration — a region countries are keen to understand because of its potential for ice.

Access to water would significantly increase the chances of successfully establishing a human base on the moon for scientific research.

If the mission is successful, the craft will return to Earth with the precious samples in a special capsule.

The material is kept in special conditions to try to keep it as pristine as possible.

Scientists in China will be given the first opportunity to study the rocks, and later researchers from around the world will be able to apply for the opportunity.

This is the second time that China has launched a mission to collect samples from the moon.

In 2020, Chang’e 5 brought back 1.7 kg of material from the Moon’s nearest region called Oceanus Procellarum.

China plans three more unmanned missions this decade as it searches for water on the moon and explores building a permanent base there.

Beijing’s broader strategy aims to have a Chinese astronaut walk on the moon by 2030.

The US also aims to put astronauts back on the moon with NASA aiming to launch its Artemis 3 mission in 2026.

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