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China lunar probe takes off from Moon carrying samples

A Chinese probe carrying samples from the far side of the Moon began its journey back to Earth on Tuesday (June 4), according to the country's space agency. This marks a world first and a significant milestone for Beijing's space program.

The ascender module of the Chang'e-6 probe "lifted off from the lunar surface" and entered a preset orbit around the Moon, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.


This is the first craft to successfully take off from the Moon's far side, with state news agency Xinhua calling the launch "an unprecedented feat in human lunar exploration history."


Analyzing the samples it brings back will enable scientists "to deepen research on the formation and evolutionary history of the Moon," said Chang’e-6 mission spokesman Ge Ping, as quoted by Xinhua.

The samples will also provide insights into "the origin of the solar system ... laying an improved foundation for future exploration missions," he added.

The Chang'e-6 module landed on Sunday in the Moon's vast South Pole-Aitken Basin, one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The probe's technically intricate 53-day mission commenced on May 3.


The Chang'e-6 employs two methods for sample collection: a drill to retrieve material from beneath the surface and a robotic arm to collect specimens from above the surface.


After successfully gathering its samples, "a Chinese national flag carried by the lander was unfurled for the first time on the far side of the Moon," the CNSA reported.

Scientists believe the Moon's far side—termed "dark" not because it never receives sunlight, but because it is hidden from Earth's view—holds significant potential for research. This region's craters are less obscured by ancient lava flows compared to the near side. Consequently, material collected from the far side may provide better insights into the Moon's initial formation.

Over the past decade, Beijing has invested substantial resources in its space program, aiming for a series of ambitious projects to catch up with the traditional space powers—the United States and Russia.


Among its notable achievements, China has constructed a space station named Tiangong, or "heavenly palace."


Beijing has also successfully landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon, making China only the third country to independently put humans in orbit.

Looking ahead, China aims to send a crewed mission to the Moon by 2030 and plans to establish a base on the lunar surface.


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