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Chang’e-6: Chinese spacecraft carrying rocks from the far side of the Moon leaves the lunar surface

BEIJING (AP) — China says spaceship carrying rock and soil samples from the far side of the Moon took off from the lunar surface to begin its journey back to Earth.

The Chang’e-6 probe’s ascender took off Tuesday morning Beijing time and entered a predefined orbit around the Moon, the China National Space Administration announced.

The Chang’e-6 probe was launched last month and its lander landed on the far side of the Moon on Sunday.

Xinhua news agency quoted the space agency as saying that the spacecraft had stored the samples it collected in a container inside the probe’s ascender as planned.

The container will be transferred to a re-entry capsule that is expected to return to Earth in the deserts of China’s Inner Mongolia region around June 25.

Missions to the far side of the Moon are more difficult because it does not face Earth, requiring a relay satellite to maintain communications. The terrain is also more uneven, with fewer flat areas to land.

Xinhua said the probe’s landing site was the South Pole-Aitken Basin, an impact crater created more than 4 billion years ago, with a depth of 13 kilometers (8 miles) and ‘a diameter of 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles).

It is the oldest and largest crater of its kind on the Moon, and so could provide the first information about it, Xinhua said, adding that the huge impact may have ejected material deep below the surface .

The mission is the sixth in Chang’e’s lunar exploration program, which is named after a Chinese moon goddess. This is the second intended to bring back samples, following the Chang’e 5which made him on the near side in 2020.

The lunar program is part of a growing rivalry with the United States – still a leader in space exploration – and others, notably Japan and India. China has put its own space station into orbit and regularly send crews there.

The emerging global power aims put a person on the moon before 2030, which would make it the second nation after the United States to do so. America plans to land astronauts on the Moon again – for the first time in more than 50 years – thanks to NASA. pushed back the target date to 2026 earlier this year.

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News Source : apnews.com

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