Wednesday, June 19, 2024

China Chang'e-6 Moon Science Mission: Far Side & NASA Lunar Orbiter Images

China Chang'e-6 Moon Science Mission: Far Side & NASA Lunar Orbiter Images

Chang'e-6 Far Side South Pole Image
Chang'e-6 Far Side South Pole Image
The coordinates of the Chang'e 6 landing site are latitude 36.1 degrees south latitude, 208.3 degrees east longitude with a horizontal accuracy of plus or minus 30 meters. 
NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) image of China Chang'e-6 Moon Lander. This independently confirmed the successful landing of Chang'e-6 on the Moon's Far Side South Pole-Aitken Basin on June 2, 2024 with support from China's Queqiao-2 Lunar Relay Satellite.
NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) image of China Chang'e-6 Moon Lander on Far Side South Pole-Aitken Basin 
This before and after animation of NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) images shows the appearance of the Chang’e 6 lander. The increased brightness of the terrain surrounding the lander is due to disturbance from the lander’s engines and is similar to the blast zone seen around other lunar landers. The before image is from March 3, 2022, and the after image is from June 7, 2024.
Chang'e-6 Moon Lander with Ascender on top on June 3, 2024: View from min-rover
China Chang'e-6 Moon Mission Lander Poster: Celebrating June 2, 2024 Far Side South Pole Landing

The ascender of China's Chang'e-6 probe successfully lifted off from the Moon's surface on June 4, 2024, carrying samples collected from the Moon's far side south pole—for the first time in human lunar exploration history. The Chang'e-6 probe—consisting of an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, like its predecessor Chang'e-5—was launched on May 3, 2024. After a month-long journey, Chang'e-6's lander-ascender combination touched down at the designated landing area in the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin on Sunday, June 2, 2024. The lander is on the rim of an eroded, 55-yard-diameter (about 50 meters) crater.

The SPA basin (43°±2° south latitude, 154°±4° west longitude) is a large impact crater on the far side of the Moon. At roughly 2,500 km (1,600 mi) in diameter and between 6.2 and 8.2 km (3.9–5.1 mi) deep, it is the largest, oldest, and deepest basin recognized on the Moon.

The Chang’e 6 landing site is situated toward the southern edge of the Apollo basin (about 306 miles or 492 km in diameter, centered at 36.1 degrees south latitude, 208.3 degrees east longitude). Basaltic lava erupted south of Chaffee S crater about 3.1 billion years ago and flowed downhill to the west until it encountered a local topographic high, likely related to a fault. Several wrinkle ridges in this region have deformed and raised the mare surface. The landing site sits about halfway between two of these prominent ridges. This basaltic flow also overlaps a slightly older flow (about 3.3 billion years old), visible further west, but the younger flow is distinct because it has higher iron oxide and titanium dioxide abundances.

The Chang'e-6 ascender rendezvoused and docked with the orbiter-returner combination and transferred the lunar samples to the returner on June 6, 2024. The combination is flying around the Moon, waiting for the right time to return. Near the Earth, the returner will re-enter the atmosphere carrying the lunar samples. It is scheduled to land at the Siziwang Banner landing site in north China's Inner Mongolia region around June 25, 2024.

In 2020, Chang'e-5 was the first lunar sample-return mission since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976. The mission made China the third country to return samples from the Moon after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Image Credits: CLEP-China Lunar Exploration Program/NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Image Dates: June 2-7, 2024

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