The Chinese space capsule landed with moon rocks

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The Chinese space capsule landed with moon rocks

A capsule from the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-6 returned to Earth on Tuesday, carrying rock samples from the far side of the moon for the first time. As live footage from Chinese state television showed, the capsule first parachuted down for several minutes before finally landing in the steppes of Inner Mongolia – “exactly” where it was intended to land, as state news agency Xinhua reported.

With the return of the capsule to Earth, China has successfully completed its sixth lunar mission since 2007. “Chang’e-5” last brought samples from the moon’s leading edge to Earth for research in 2020. In 2019, “Chang’e-4”, a rover, landed on the far side of the moon for the first time and explored the terrain there.

China succeeded in a difficult undertaking
Other countries, however, were struggling. In the recent past, several lunar probes from India, Israel, Japan and Russia failed to reach their destinations as planned. There were also problems at the American space agency NASA: only after years of delays, the spacecraft ‘Starliner’ recently flew to the ISS space station, but helium leaks occurred and now the return to Earth has been postponed. Private space company SpaceX’s “Starship” rocket system exploded after just a few minutes in the first three tests, and only the fourth made it any further.

The mission lasted 53 days
For the Chinese, however, everything went as planned. The “Chang’e-6” took off from the Chinese spaceport on the tropical island of Hainan on May 3. The spacecraft lander named after the Chinese moon goddess landed on the moon on June 2 and then began collecting the rock samples. These were transported back to the main spacecraft by an ascent module, which ultimately delivered the samples to Earth. In total, the mission lasted – exactly as planned – 53 days.

China has now transported rocks from the moon to Earth in two different missions. Previously, the US and the Soviet Union had achieved this in the 1960s and 1970s. However, for the first time, samples were on board from the side of the moon facing away from Earth, from which scientists hope to gain new insights into the history of the formation of Earth’s satellite.

Based on the geological features of the landing site in the moon’s South Pole-Aitken Basin (SPA), Chinese researchers believe the returned samples will consist of 2.5 billion-year-old volcanic rock. Traces of previous meteorite impacts may also be present in the samples.

“Significant differences” with the front are suspected
There are “significant differences” between the Earth-facing and Earth-facing sides of the moon in terms of crust thickness, volcanic activity and soil composition, writes Chinese geologist Yue Zongyu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the scientific journal ‘The Innovation ”.

Samples containing traces of meteorites could ultimately provide not only information about the moon’s evolution, but also new insights into the formation of the entire inner solar system, Yue explained.

AfterThe first mission sets its sights on the moon’s south pole
Further Chinese lunar missions are already being prepared. The Chinese mission “Chang’e-7”, scheduled for 2026, aims to further explore the lunar south pole environment. The Chinese’s ultimate goal is to take their own astronauts to the moon’s surface and build an outpost on Earth’s satellite by 2030.

NASA recently had to postpone its moon program again due to problems with the rocket and spacecraft. The Americans are now planning a manned moon landing in September 2026. It is not yet clear who will ultimately emerge as the winner.

After decades of calm, the moon has once again become the destination of several spacefaring countries, also because it is believed to contain important raw materials. Furthermore, the missions are considered technically very complex and therefore prestigious.

Source: Krone

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