China Wins Key Victory In Space Race Against U.S.

( – China’s Chang’e-6 lunar probe has successfully completed its mission and turned for home, according to Chinese state media.

The unmanned spacecraft set off from earth of May 3, before spending a 20-day segment orbiting the moon. It landed in the Apollo Basin on June 1 before departing for earth two days later. Its landing in the Apollo Basin, an impact crater on the far side of the moon, was a world-first. The far side of the moon is a notoriously challenging environment, with its great distance from earth and its huge and numerous craters.

This trip represents China’s sixth mission to the moon. It will also mark the first time that any country has been able to bring rock samples back from the far side of the moon, should its landing on Earth go to plan. The Chang’e-6 probe comprised several sections, including an ascender which lifted off from the moon while carrying a metal container full of samples. That container will then be transferred to a re-entry capsule which is scheduled to touch down in the Inner Mongolian desserts on June 25. The probe also included an orbiter, lander, and returner, and worked in conjunction with a support satellite throughout the mission.

Scientists around the world have expressed excitement and interest in the samples, particularly as they may answer questions about the formation of planets, according to University of Manchester geologist Prof. John Pernet-Fisher. The possibilities presented by greater moon exploration have inspired many nations to set out plans for lunar missions. India successfully landed a probe on the moon last year, while Russia’s probe crash-landed on the rocky surface.

The U.S., the nation that first sent men to the moon, has been somewhat overshadowed by China’s recent efforts. China became the first nation to reach the far side of the moon in 2019 with its Chang’e-4 probe and went on to collect samples from the near-side the following year. It has grand plans, with the aim of sending astronauts to the moon by 2030, although the U.S. has announced its own plans for a 2026 mission to send the first manned craft to the moon since 1969.

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