China’s Chang’e-6 probe lifts off with samples from moon’s far side in historic first

China’s Chang’e-6 probe lifts off with samples from moon’s far side in historic first

China’s Chang’e-6 Probe: A Historic First Lunar Mission to Retrieve Samples from the Moon’s Far Side

In a groundbreaking scientific achievement, China launched its Chang’e-6 probe on December 2, 2020, marking the country’s first attempt to retrieve lunar samples from the far side of the Moon. The mission represents a significant milestone in space exploration and marks China as the third nation, following the US and the Soviet Union, to complete a lunar sample return mission.

A New Frontier: The Far Side of the Moon

The far side of the Moon, also known as the “dark side,” remains largely unexplored due to its lack of constant communication with Earth. With no direct line of sight between the far side and our planet, manned missions have not been feasible. However, China’s Chang’e-6 probe aims to change that.

The Chang’e-6 Probe: A Comprehensive Lunar Mission

The Chang’e-6 probe is a comprehensive lunar exploration mission comprising three parts: the lander, the ascender (for takeoff from the Moon), and the returner (to bring samples back to Earth). The lander, Chang’e-6 Lander, will soft-land on the far side of the Moon and deploy a small rover to explore the area. The ascender will then rendezvous with the lander, lift off, and dock with it to retrieve the samples. Finally, the returner will transport the samples back to Earth.

Scientific Significance: Unraveling Moon’s Mysteries

The primary objective of the Chang’e-6 probe is to collect lunar samples from the far side of the Moon and bring them back to Earth for comprehensive analysis. The data gathered from these samples could potentially provide valuable insights into the Moon’s geological history, composition, and potential water resources.

Expected Impact: China’s Growing Role in Space Exploration

Successfully completing the Chang’e-6 probe mission would significantly strengthen China’s position as a major player in space exploration. It would also pave the way for future missions, including manned missions to the Moon and potentially, Mars.

China’s Chang’e-6 Mission: A Giant Leap in Lunar Research

China‘s link (CNSA) has been making significant strides in space exploration, with a particular focus on the moon. Since launching its first lunar mission, Chang’e-1, in 2007, China has continued to advance its

lunar exploration program

with each subsequent mission. The most recent addition to this lineup is the

Chang’e-6 mission

, which holds immense significance for lunar research and international competition.


Chang’e-6 mission

, scheduled for launch in late 2023, aims to collect samples from the lunar surface and return them to Earth. This ambitious project builds on the accomplishments of the Chang’e-5 mission, which successfully

landed on the moon

, collected samples, and returned them to Earth in December 2020. With Chang’e-6, China aims to pioneer new territory in lunar exploration and join an elite group of countries with the capability to bring lunar samples back to Earth.


significance of the Chang’e-6 mission

extends beyond China’s borders. By contributing to lunar research, this mission will help scientists better understand the moon’s geological history, origin, and evolution. Additionally, it will further advance our knowledge of space exploration techniques and technologies. Furthermore, China’s progress in lunar exploration places the country at the forefront of an

international competition

to establish a long-term human presence on the moon and explore its resources.

Mission Overview

Objectives of the Chang’e-6 mission

The Chang’e-6 mission is a significant step forward in China’s lunar exploration program. This mission has several objectives, both scientific and technological, that aim to expand our knowledge of the moon and prepare for future manned lunar missions.

Detailed mapping and surveying of the lunar far side

One primary goal is to conduct detailed mapping and surveying of the lunar far side, an area that remains largely unexplored due to its lack of communication with Earth during full moon phases. This exploration is essential for understanding the unique geological features and resources present on this side.

Resource exploration and identification

Another major objective is resource exploration and identification. The Chang’e-6 mission aims to locate and assess the composition of various lunar resources, including water ice and minerals. This information is crucial for future plans to establish a sustainable lunar base.

Technology demonstration for future manned lunar missions

Additionally, the Chang’e-6 mission serves as a technology demonstrator for future manned lunar exploration. It will test new technologies and techniques that will be necessary for successful human missions to the moon.

Composition of the Chang’e-6 spacecraft

The Chang’e-6 spacecraft consists of a lander and an ascent vehicle designed to work in unison for this mission.

Lander: Design, capabilities, and instruments

The lander is designed to carry out the scientific objectives of the mission. It features advanced instruments such as:
Cameras and spectrometers: For surveying and mineralogical analysis of the lunar surface
Radar: Capable of terrain mapping and subsurface detection

Ascent vehicle: Design, capabilities, and propulsion system

The ascent vehicle is a reusable design intended for future missions. Its propulsion technology enables lunar escape, allowing the spacecraft to leave the moon’s gravity and return to Earth or orbit.

Launch vehicle and launch site

The Chang’e-6 mission will be launched using the Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. This powerful launch vehicle ensures the spacecraft’s successful delivery to lunar orbit.

China’s Chang’e-6 probe lifts off with samples from moon’s far side in historic first

I Preparation and Countdown

Timeline and Milestones Leading to the Launch:

  • Spacecraft Assembly and Testing:: The first phase of the mission involves assembling and testing the spacecraft. Engineers meticulously build each component, install essential systems, and conduct rigorous tests to ensure functionality and reliability (e.g.,, propulsion, power, communication).
  • Integration with the Long March 5 Rocket:: Once assembled and tested, the spacecraft is carefully integrated with the powerful Long March 5 rocket. This process involves mating the spacecraft to the upper stage of the rocket, securing it in place, and connecting necessary umbilical cords for fuel and data exchange.

Launch Preparations:

Weather Monitoring:: As the launch date approaches, meteorologists monitor weather conditions to assess any potential threats, such as heavy rain or strong winds, that could impede the mission. A favorable launch window is crucial for the success of the mission.

Final Checks:: Teams conduct thorough final checks on both the spacecraft and the rocket to ensure everything is ready for launch. This includes ensuring all systems are functioning properly, fuel levels are correct, and that the countdown sequence is programmed correctly.

Team Coordination:: Communication between various teams – ground control, launch vehicle, and spacecraft – is crucial during this phase. Teams must coordinate closely to address any issues that may arise and ensure a smooth launch.

Countdown Sequence and Key Events Leading to Lift-Off:

  1. T-10 Minutes: The countdown reaches its final minutes. Teams conduct a final check of all systems and confirm that all readiness indicators are green.
  2. T-5 Minutes: Teams perform a final battery check on the spacecraft and rocket.
  3. T-2 Minutes: The launch vehicle begins its final preparations, such as pressurizing the fuel tanks and arming the engines.
  4. T-Zero:: The rocket engines ignite, and the spacecraft begins its ascent into space. A thunderous roar fills the air as the vehicle leaves Earth’s gravitational pull behind.

China’s Chang’e-6 probe lifts off with samples from moon’s far side in historic first

IV. Lunar Landing and Sampling

Approach and Landing Sequence on the Far Side of the Moon: Including Hazard Avoidance Systems

Chang’e-5, China’s lunar exploration mission, marked a significant milestone in space history with its successful lunar landing on the far side of the moon on December 1, 2019. The landing sequence started with a precise approach utilizing hazard avoidance systems, which ensured the spacecraft avoided craters and other potential hazards before touching down in the Von Karman Crater within the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Deployment of Scientific Instruments and Surveying Equipment

Upon landing, Chang’e-5‘s onboard instruments were deployed to collect data and samples. These included the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS), which mapped the lunar terrain, and the Payload for Lunar Terrain and Environment Sensing (LTE), which measured temperature, magnetic fields, and other environmental parameters. The mission’s

Yutu-2 rover

, equipped with a panoramic camera and an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, was also released to explore the lunar surface.

Drilling and Collection of Lunar Samples Using Advanced Technology

A crucial aspect of the mission involved drilling and collecting lunar samples. The spacecraft utilized an advanced

rotary drill

, capable of extracting cores up to 2 meters deep. Collected samples were sealed in airtight containers and transported to the mini-laboratory onboard, where preliminary data was analyzed. Additionally,

X-ray fluorescence spectrometers

were employed to determine the composition of lunar material.

Sample Handling, Storage, and Preservation

The drilled samples were placed in hermetically sealed containers, which prevented contamination and maintained the pristine condition for eventual return to Earth. The samples were then transferred to a

controlled-temperature storage cabinet

, preserving them at -25°C until the return journey.

In-situ Analysis and Preliminary Data Transmission Back to Earth

In addition to collecting samples, Chang’e-5 conducted in-situ analysis, sending preliminary data back to Earth in real-time, including geological information and data on the lunar environment. This enabled researchers to gain valuable insights into the moon’s composition, structure, and history before the samples were returned to Earth for further study.

Establishment of a Temporary Lunar Communication Relay Station to Support Chang’e-5 and Future Missions

After completing its primary objectives, Chang’e-5 established a temporary lunar communication relay station. This enabled continuous communication between Earth and the moon, supporting not only the Chang’e-5 mission but also future endeavors. The station was operational for over a year before its fuel supplies were depleted, marking another significant achievement in China’s lunar exploration efforts.

China’s Chang’e-6 probe lifts off with samples from moon’s far side in historic first

Ascent, Return, and Re-entry

After a successful lunar mission, the next phase involves the ascent of the ascent vehicle from the lunar surface and its return journey to Earth. This process is known as Ascent, Return, and Re-entry.

Separation of the ascent vehicle from the lander

The first step in this process is the separation of the ascent vehicle from the lander. This is typically achieved using a pyrotechnic or explosive system that separates the two components. Once separated, the ascent vehicle begins its engine burn to lift off from the lunar surface and commence the journey to lunar orbit.

Ascent to lunar orbit and rendezvous with the Chang’e-6 orbiter

Upon reaching lunar orbit, the ascent vehicle must rendezvous with the Chang’e-6 orbiter, which has been circling the moon during the lunar mission. This process involves precise navigation and communication between the two spacecraft to ensure a successful docking.

Docking mechanism and procedures

The docking mechanism used for this process typically involves a mechanical or magnetic latching system, along with various sensors to ensure proper alignment and positioning of the two spacecraft. Once the docking is complete, the hatches between the ascent vehicle and orbiter are opened to allow for the transfer of samples and other data collected during the lunar mission.

Transfer of samples to the orbiter

The transfer of samples and data from the ascent vehicle to the orbiter is a critical part of the mission. This process involves carefully packaging and securing the samples to ensure they remain intact during the journey back to Earth. Once the samples are securely stowed away, they are transported to the orbiter for storage and eventual return to Earth.

Return journey to Earth, including re-entry, descent, and landing in a predetermined location

With the samples safely on board the orbiter, the next phase is the return journey to Earth. This involves a series of engine burns to adjust the orbital trajectory and begin the descent back to Earth.

Heat shield and parachute deployment

As the spacecraft re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, it is subjected to extreme heat and friction. To protect the spacecraft and ensure a safe landing, a heat shield is used to shield the spacecraft from the heat. Once the spacecraft has passed through the dense atmosphere and its speed has been reduced, a parachute is deployed to begin the descent.

Soft landing and sample retrieval by recovery team

Once the spacecraft has landed, a recovery team is sent to the predetermined location to retrieve the samples and data collected during the lunar mission. The team carefully opens the spacecraft and extracts the samples, which are then transported back to laboratories for analysis and study.

Ascent VehicleLanderChang’e-6 Orbiter
Function:Leaves the lunar surface and returns to Earth with samplesLands on the lunar surface and collects dataCircles the moon and rendezvous with the ascent vehicle

China’s Chang’e-6 probe lifts off with samples from moon’s far side in historic first

VI. Scientific Significance and International Implications

China’s Chang’e-5 mission, which successfully landed on the Moon on December 1, 2020, and returned samples to Earth on December 17, marks a significant milestone in space exploration. This moon mission, the first by any country since 1976, has made substantial contributions to lunar research in several ways.

Contributions to Lunar Research

Mineralogy: Chang’e-5 has collected approximately 1.8 kilograms of lunar soil and rocks, providing valuable data for the study of lunar mineralogy. This is essential for understanding the Moon’s formation and evolution, as well as its geological history.


Geology: The Chang’e-5 samples offer insights into the Moon’s internal structure and composition, including its geological history. This knowledge can contribute to a better understanding of terrestrial planets in general and help us develop strategies for resource utilization on the Moon.

Resource Exploration

Resource exploration: The Chang’e-5 mission has demonstrated China’s capabilities in lunar resource exploration. The identified water ice resources could potentially be used for life support systems, fuel production, and even the production of oxygen and hydrogen for space travel. This could make future manned missions more sustainable and economically viable.

Comparison with Other Lunar Missions

Chang’e-5’s achievements can be compared to other notable lunar missions, such as the US’ Artemis program and Russia’s Luna-Glob projects. The Artemis program, aimed at returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, shares similar goals of lunar resource utilization and exploration. However, Chang’e-5 has already achieved what Artemis hopes to accomplish in a few years, making significant strides in lunar research and international space cooperation. Meanwhile, the Luna-Glob projects, which ended in 1976, focused on lunar soft landings and sample returns, but did not achieve the same level of success and scientific output as Chang’e-5.

Diplomatic Implications

Diplomatic implications: The Chang’e-5 mission has diplomatic implications for China’s role in space exploration and international cooperation. It showcases China’s growing capabilities and commitment to scientific research, potentially enhancing its reputation as a global leader in space technology. Furthermore, it opens opportunities for international collaboration, creating possibilities for knowledge sharing and technological advancements that can benefit all nations.


In conclusion, China’s Chang’e-5 mission represents a significant leap forward in lunar research and international space cooperation. Its contributions to mineralogy, geology, resource exploration, comparison with other missions, and diplomatic implications underscore the importance of this achievement in the broader context of space exploration.

China’s Chang’e-6 probe lifts off with samples from moon’s far side in historic first

V Conclusion

V Conclusion: The successful execution of China’s Chang’e-6 lunar mission marks a significant milestone in the country’s space program and advances our understanding of the Moon.

Summary of Achievements and Significance

The Chang’e-6 mission achieved several firsts in lunar exploration, including the soft landing of a spacecraft on the Von Karman Crater, which is located within the South Pole-Aitken Basin. This landing marks China’s second successful lunar landing and brings China closer to establishing a permanent presence on the Moon. Future Plans for Lunar Exploration
Looking ahead, China’s lunar exploration plans include manned missions to the Moon and potential collaborations with international partners. These ambitious goals will require significant advancements in space technology, including the development of reusable lunar landers, advanced propulsion systems, and life support systems.

Potential Challenges and Opportunities

However, these advancements also come with challenges, such as the extreme temperatures on the lunar surface and the need for radiation protection for manned missions. On a scientific front, the lunar exploration will offer new opportunities for discovering water ice and other resources on the Moon, as well as studying its geology, mineralogy, and potential habitability.