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Chang’e-6 Lands on the Far Side of the Moon for Soil Retrieval

On June 2, China’s Chang’e-6 spacecraft landed on the Moon’s far side for a second time, and, for the first time, will soon start collecting rock samples from the oldest lunar basin to bring back to Earth.

The Chang’e-6 lander successfully touched down in the northeastern part of the South Pole-Aitken basin at 06:23 China Standard Time on June 2 (22:23 UTC, June 1; 18:23 EDT, June 1), the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced. The lander will soon go through initial checks and begin using its robotic arm to drill and scoop up materials from the lunar surface, which are expected to weigh up to 2 kg.

Once returned, they will become the first samples ever retrieved from the Moon’s mysterious far side, which always faces away from the Earth.

Entering lunar orbit on May 8, four days after its May 3 launch, the 8.35-ton spacecraft—which consists of a lander, ascender, orbiter, and return capsule—had been circling the Moon since then, looking for the best spot and time to land.

On May 30, the lander and ascender separated from the orbiter and return capsule. The lander then fired its 7,500-Newton-thrust engine to slow down and began to descend from about 15 km above the lunar surface.

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