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China achieves landmark moon landing, aiming for first dark side samples

China successfully landed its Chang’e-6 uncrewed spacecraft on the far side of the moon on Sunday, marking a significant achievement in its space exploration efforts.

The mission aims to collect and return the first rock and soil samples from the moon’s dark hemisphere, specifically from the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The landing enhances China’s status in the international space race, where countries like the United States are also aiming to harness lunar resources for future long-term missions and moon bases. The mission involves numerous engineering innovations and high risks, with the lander’s tools designed for scientific exploration.

The Chang’e-6 mission, China’s second on the moon’s far side, follows its initial launch on 3 May from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre.

The probe will collect 2kg of lunar material using a scoop and drill over two days. These samples will be launched back to Earth, with a return expected around 25 June in Inner Mongolia.

The mission, the world’s third lunar landing in 2024, follows Japan’s and a US startup’s landings earlier this year. The successful completion of Chang’e-6 will provide China with new insights into the moon’s history and the solar system’s formation, and further its goal of landing astronauts on the moon by 2030, in partnership with Russia.

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