Thursday, June 06, 2024

Video Recap: Chang'e-6 Science Mission to Return Far Side Moon Samples

Video Recap: Chang'e-6 Science Mission to Return Far Side Moon Samples

The ascender of China's Chang'e-6 probe successfully rendezvoused and docked with the orbiter-returner combination in lunar orbit at 14:48 Beijing time on Thursday, June 6, 2024, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced. Shortly after the docking procedure, the container carrying the lunar samples collected on the far side of the Moon was safely transferred from the ascender to the returner at 15:24.

This is the second time China has achieved a probe rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit following the success of the Chang'e-5 mission back in December 2020.

Launched from south China's Hainan Province on May 3, 2024, the Chang'e-6 mission set out to retrieve the first-ever lunar samples from the far side of the Moon, making it a groundbreaking accomplishment in the history of human lunar exploration.

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.

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 lander finished its intelligent and rapid sampling work, and the samples were stowed in a container inside the ascender of the probe as planned.

After that, the combination separated, with the lander staying on the lunar surface, whereas the ascender lifted off from lunar surface Tuesday morning, June 4, carrying samples collected from the Moon's far side.

A 3,000-newton engine, after working for about six minutes, pushed the ascender to the preset lunar orbit with a perigee of about 15 kilometers and an apogee of about 180 kilometers.

After one to three course corrections over the next five days, the Chang'e-6 ascender-returner combination will reach a position around 5,000 kilometers above the Earth, where the returner will separate from the orbiter and start the phase of re-entering the atmosphere and returning to Earth. It will touchdown at a planned landing area at Siziwang Banner in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. This will mark the end of the Chang'e-6's 53-day journey of flying to the moon and back.

Video Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)

Duration: 6 minutes

Release Date: June 6, 2024

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