Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Far Side Moon Images | China Chang'e-6 Science Mission

Far Side Moon Images | China Chang'e-6 Science Mission

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, unveiled four images of the Moon's far side taken by the Chang'e-6 probe, including three taken during its landing at the lunar south pole and one from the panoramic camera capturing the landing site.

The Chang'e-6 probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, was launched on May 3, 2024. The lander-ascender combination, separated from the orbiter-returner combination on May 30, touched down at the designated landing area in the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin on June 2.

During its landing on Moon's far side, the Chang'e-6 probe collected lunar samples and conducted a comprehensive investigation of the landing area using its payloads.

Chang'e-6 payloads successfully completed multiple scientific tasks and a panoramic image, capturing the landing area, was promptly transmitted to the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where the valid data obtained from the payloads will be analyzed and processed.

"From this panoramic image, we can see that the landing area is very flat, indicating a well-chosen safe landing area. Looking into the distance, we can see some mountains, which are the edges of circular craters in the Apollo Basin located beyond the lunar surface," said Ren Xin, researcher of the National Astronomical Observatories.

When comparing the panoramic images of the landing areas captured by Chang'e-6 and Chang'e-5, Ren said, "The most noticeable difference is that the Chang'e-6 landing area has fewer rocks in comparison with Chang'e-5. Particularly, there was a large rock of about 30 centimeters in the Chang'e-5 landing area, believed to have been ejected from a distance. But no similarly large rocks have been discovered in Chang'e-6 landing area. Instead, only a few small rocks, measuring around three to five centimeters, are present, resulting in a smoother landing area. Nevertheless, there are still small impact craters and mud-like traces, potentially indicating remnants of ejected materials in the landing area."

The multiple payloads installed on the lander, including the landing camera, panoramic camera, lunar soil structure detector and lunar mineral spectrum analyzer, worked well and carried out scientific exploration as planned.

"The lunar soil structure detector functions as a CT scanner for the moon, using electromagnetic wave propagation to probe the shallow subsurface. Throughout its lunar operations, the detector conducted a total of four scans. The first scan occurred prior to the drilling mission, providing a preliminary understanding of the subsurface up to a depth of three meters. This scan facilitated the identification of approximate rock distribution, contributing to the successful completion of the drilling mission. The subsequent three scans were conducted after the drilling mission, employing different parameter configurations to generate distinct underground structure maps. The initial findings unveiled a notable presence of scattered rocks within a three-meter depth beneath the lunar surface," said Su Yan, another researcher of the National Astronomical Observatories.

The Chang'e-6 ascender will rendezvous and dock with the orbiter-returner combination and transfer the lunar samples to the returner. The combination will then fly 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.

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.

Video Credit: China Central Television (CCTV) Video News Agency

Duration: 2 minutes, 34 seconds

Release Date: June 4, 2024

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