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BREAKING! China Lands On Far Side Of Moon

A Chinese spacecraft has successfully landed on the moon's far side to collect rock samples, further intensifying the ongoing space race to the lunar surface with the United States and partner nations.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sat Jun 01 2024Written by Zac Aubert

A Chinese spacecraft has successfully landed on the moon's far side to collect rock samples, further intensifying the ongoing space race to the lunar surface with the United States and partner nations.

Landing was scheduled for approximately 8:00 p.m. Eastern Saturday, June 1 (00:00 UTC June 2), according to the European Space Agency (ESA), which contributed a Swedish-developed payload to the mission. Landing was confirmed to have taken place at 6:23pm ET (22:23 UTC)

The mission, the sixth in China's Chang'e moon exploration program named after a Chinese moon goddess, aims to collect samples from the moon's far side. This mission follows the successful Chang'e-5 mission in 2020, which brought back samples from the moon's near side.The far side of the moon, permanently hidden from Earth's view, holds significant scientific mysteries related to the moon's history and composition.


Launched on May 3, Chang'e-6 entered lunar orbit just over four days later.

The mission targeted a landing in the southern part of Apollo crater within the vast South Pole-Aitken basin. The sun began to rise over this area on the lunar far side early on May 28, providing optimal conditions for the landing attempt.

The Chang'e-6 lander module separated from the mission orbiter in lunar orbit in preparation for descent.

The lander will now conduct initial checks and setup before drilling and collecting surface materials. Up to 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of these samples will be loaded into an ascent vehicle, which will then launch in an estimated 48 hours back into lunar orbit for rendezvous and docking with the orbiter.

Scientific and International Collaboration

The mission includes several international scientific instruments.

The Negative Ions at the Lunar Surface (NILS) payload, developed by the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, and the Detection of Outgassing RadoN (DORN) instrument from France will collect data during the lander’s operational period on the surface.

Additionally, an Italian passive laser retro-reflector and a small rover are aboard the lander.

The lander is expected to sustain damage from the ascent module launch, which will end surface operations.

Chang'e-6 also carried a small satellite, Icube-Q, jointly developed by Pakistani and Chinese universities, which captured images of the moon and sun once released into lunar orbit.

Direct communication with the far side of the moon is impossible due to its permanent position out of Earth's view. To address this, the mission is supported by the Queqiao-2 satellite, which operates in a specialized lunar orbit to relay communications between Chang'e-6 and ground stations on Earth.

Future Prospects and Lunar Ambitions

Based on the 2020 Chang'e-5 nearside sample return mission, the Chang'e-6 ascender and orbiter are expected to rendezvous and dock around two days after the ascent module launch. The ascender will be discarded a few days later, and the orbiter will then prepare to leave lunar orbit and release a reentry capsule ahead of its return to Earth, expected around June 25.

China’s moon program is part of a broader competition with the U.S. and other nations, including Japan and India, to explore space. China has put its own space station in orbit and regularly sends crews there. The emerging global power aims to put a person on the moon before 2030, which would make it the second nation after the United States to do so. America is planning to land astronauts on the moon again for the first time in more than 50 years, though NASA pushed the target date back to 2026 earlier this year.

Chang'e-6 is part of China's broader lunar ambitions. The country plans to follow up with two missions to the moon's south pole: Chang'e-7 in 2026 and Chang'e-8 around 2028. These missions are steps toward establishing a permanent lunar base under the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) program, planned for the 2030s.

Several countries and organizations have signed up for this ambitious project, signaling China's growing influence and commitment to leading the next era of space exploration.