China’s Chang’e-6 Departs Moon with Historic Lunar Samples
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China’s Chang’e-6 Departs Moon with Historic Lunar Samples

According to Tuesday’s announcement by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the Chang’e-6 spacecraft has begun its return to Earth after launching from the moon’s far side. The goal of China becoming the first nation to return lunar samples from the far side—the side of the moon that is continuously facing away from Earth—is getting closer with each passing day.

After collecting samples from June 2–3, the probe departed the moon at 7:38 a.m. local time (2338 GMT). According to CNSA, Chang’e-6 “passed the litmus test of high temperature on the far side of the moon.” Operating independently of Earth, Chang’e-6 differed from its predecessor, Chang’e-5, which procured samples from the near side. Rather, it depended on the April-launched relay satellite Queqiao-2.

Soil samples were collected from both the surface and depths of the moon by Chang’e-6 using a robotic arm and drill. After taking a sample, it proudly flew the Chinese flag for the first time. With the samples transferred to a return module, the probe will meet with another spacecraft once it reaches lunar orbit.

After returning to Earth, this module is scheduled to touch down in Inner Mongolia around June 25.