July 14, 2024

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China is preparing to drop moon rocks from the far side of the moon to Earth

China is preparing to drop moon rocks from the far side of the moon to Earth

A capsule carrying soil from the far side of the moon will parachute down Tuesday in the desert in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

The sample, recovered by the China National Space Administration’s Chang’e-6 lander, is expected to be the latest achievement in a series of near-flawless executions of Chinese lunar exploration missions since 2007.

Here’s what you need to know about the Chang’e-6 mission’s return to Earth.

The Chinese Space Agency has not yet confirmed the end date of the mission.

But according to NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterThe Chang’e-6 sample return capsule is expected to land at 1:41 AM ET, or 1:41 PM local time, in the Siziwang Banner region of Inner Mongolia, a region in northern China.

The Times will share an embedded live video feed if the Chinese space agency provides a broadcast closer to the expected landing time.

Don’t call it the dark side of the moon, it gets a lot of sunlight.

But when you look at the sky from Earth, you only see one side of the Moon, the near side. His face is streaked with wide, dark plains where ancient lava flowed.

The far side of the Moon – the half hidden from us on Earth – is different. It has fewer plains, more craters, and thicker crust, although scientists aren’t sure why.

It may not be a mystery much longer. China sent two missions there with the aim of studying why it was different from the near side.

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The Chinese lunar exploration program is named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e, and was originally designed in three phases: orbit, landing and sampling. The first two spacecraft, Chang’e-1 and 2, orbited the Moon, taking photographs and mapping its surface. Chang’e-3 touched down on the near side of the Moon in 2013, and in 2019, Chang’e-4 accomplished the same thing on the far side. Rovers from both missions then closely studied the lunar surface.

One year later, the Chang’e-5 spacecraft touched down and collected nearly four pounds of lunar regolith which was then released to Earth. This mission made China the third country – after the United States and the Soviet Union – to obtain a sample from the moon.

Chang’e-6 launched on May 3 with bigger plans: bringing back material from the far side of the Moon. Because this hemisphere never faces Earth, it is impossible to communicate directly with landers on the far side of the Moon, making it difficult to reach successfully. The Chinese space agency used two lunar-orbiting satellites, Queqiao and Queqiao-2, to maintain contact with Chang’e-6 during the mission.

The spacecraft spent a few weeks in lunar orbit, then landed on the lunar surface in June. I descended to a site on the edge of the South Pole-Itkin Basin, the oldest and deepest impact crater on the Moon.

Then on June 3, a rocket launched aboard the spacecraft, sending the samples into orbit around the moon. The material was then collected again on June 6 by a spacecraft that remained in orbit and prepared to begin the journey back to Earth.

Sometime on Tuesday, the sample container will attempt to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. If a mission like Chang’e-4 is successful, China will recover the material, and scientific research into its contents will begin.