China successfully lands unmanned spacecraft on far side of the moon

China achieved a significant milestone on Sunday by landing an unmanned spacecraft on the moon's far side, aiming to be the first country to retrieve rock and soil samples from this unexplored side.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that its Chang'e-6 craft touched down in the South Pole-Aitken Basin crater on Sunday. The agency explained that its space mission "involves many engineering innovations, high risks and great difficulty" and that "the payloads carried by the Chang'e-6 lander will work as planned and carry out scientific exploration missions."

China intends for the unmanned spacecraft to drill into the moon's surface to collect roughly 4.5 pounds of lunar material and bring it back to Earth. These materials, China hopes, will help China further understand the science behind the moon and the solar system’s formation. Once researched by Chinese scientists, other researchers around the world will have the opportunity to apply to research these rocks as well, according to a report by Reuters.

China's efforts come as multiple nations, including Japan and the US, are rekindling their lunar exploration programs to extract lunar minerals for long-term space missions and the potential construction of moon bases.

However, the far side of the moon continues to present unique challenges due to its large craters and darkness. These factors make communications and robotic landing operations far more difficult. 

Neil Melville-Kenney, a technical officer at the European Space Agency, explained the difficulties, noting the reliance on automation in the shadowed high-latitude regions.

"Landing on the far side of the moon is very difficult because you don’t have line-of-sight communications, you’re relying on a lot of links in the chain to control what is going on, or you have to automate what is going on," he explained. 

This marks China's second successful mission to the far side and it remains the only country to do so. 

Image: Title: china moon


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