Chang'e 6

Last updated

41°38′19″S153°59′07″W / 41.6385°S 153.9852°W / -41.6385; -153.9852 [8] [9]

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program is designed to be conducted in four [12] phases of incremental technological advancement:

The preceding Chang'e 5 mission returned 1.731 kilograms (3.82 lb) of material from the northern hemisphere of the lunar near side.

The Chang'e 6 mission landed on southern hemisphere of the lunar far side to gather more material. Specifically, the landing segment of the Chang'e 6 mission touched down in a relatively flat area lying in the southern portion of the Apollo crater, which itself lies within the larger South Pole-Aitken (SPA) impact basin on the lunar far side. Scientists hope that the samples collected from the landing area may include lunar mantle material ejected by the original impact that created the SPA basin, material which can shed light on the differences that exist between the lunar near-side and far-side, and on the origin of the Moon and the Solar System.. [2]

The Chang'e 6 lander landed at 22:23 UTC on 1 June 2024 in the southern mare of Apollo Basin (lunar coordinates: 41°38′18″S153°59′08″W / 41.63839°S 153.98545°W / -41.63839; -153.98545 ). [5] [16] After the completion of sample collection and the placement of the sample on the ascender by the probe's robotic drill and robotic arm, the ascender successfully took off from atop the lander portion of the probe at 23:38 UTC on 3 June 2024. [7] [17] The ascender docked with the Chang'e 6 service module (the orbiter) in lunar orbit at 06:48 UTC on 6 June 2024 and subsequently completed the transfer of the sample container to the Earth return module at 07:24 UTC on the same day. [18]

The mission's lander collected approximately 2 kilograms (4.4 lb) of lunar far-side material including surface soil and rocks (using a scoop) and subsurface samples (using a drill). If the mission is fully successful, China will be the first nation to bring back samples from the far side of the Moon. [19]

The hole left by the sampling was in the shape of the character zhong () which is the initial character of China's name Zhōngguó 中国. This symbolism went viral on Weibo. [20]

Mission architecture

Chang'e 6 was built as a copy of and backup to Chang'e 5. [21] The mission is reported to consist of four modules:

The estimated launch mass is 8,200 kg (18,100 lb)—the lander is projected to be 3,200 kg (7,100 lb) and the ascent vehicle is about 700 kg (1,500 lb). [25] [23] [26]

Science payloads

In October 2018, Chinese officials announced that they would call for international partners to propose an additional payload up to 10 kg (22 lb) to be included in this mission. [27] In November 2022, it was announced that the mission would carry payloads from four international partners: [28] [29]

Lander

  • A French instrument called DORN (Detection of Outgassing Radon) to study the transport of lunar dust and other volatiles between the lunar regolith and the lunar exosphere, including the water cycle. [30]
  • The Italian instrument INRRI (INstrument for landing-Roving laser Retroreflector Investigations) consists of a retroreflector that precisely measures distances from the lander to orbit, [31] similar to those used in the Schiaparelli and InSight missions.
  • The Swedish NILS (Negative Ions on Lunar Surface), an instrument to detect and measure negative ions reflected by the lunar surface. [32]

Orbiter

Rover

Chang'e-6 carries a "previously undisclosed" mini rover described as a Mobile Camera. [11] The rover is expected to support research into the composition of the lunar surface, the presence of water ice in the lunar soil via an imaging infrared spectrometer and image the Chang'e 6 lander on the lunar surface. [35]

Mission profile

Launch

The probe was launched by a Long March 5 rocket at 09:27 UTC, on 3 May 2024, from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. [36] [37]

Earth-Moon transfer

After launch, Chang'e 6 successfully entered a 12-hour orbit around the Moon at 02:12 UTC, on 8 May 2024. [4]

The lander/ascender/rover separated from the orbiter/returner on 30 May 2024, in preparation for landing. [38]

Landing

At 22:06 UTC, on 1 June 2024, the Chang'e 6 lander/ascender, with the support of the Queqiao-2 relay satellite, descended from its 200 kilometer (124 miles) orbit altitude. [38] [39] It used its autonomous obstacle avoidance system, visible light camera, and laser 3D scanner to detect and avoid lunar obstacles and uneven terrain. At 22:23 UTC, it successfully landed in the pre-selected landing area in the South Pole–Aitken basin on the far side of the Moon. [38] The engine was cut for the final approach and a cushioning system was used for the freefall touchdown. [40]

Return

At 23:38 UTC on 3 June 2024, the Chang'e 6 ascender (carrying the samples) took off from the far side of the Moon and entered the predetermined circumlunar orbit. This was the world's first sampling and takeoff on the far side of the Moon. [41] [42]

At 06:48 UTC on 6 June, 2024, the Chang'e 6 ascender rendezvoused and docked with the orbiter/returner in lunar orbit. At 07:24 UTC, the lunar sample container was safely transferred to the returner. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Pole–Aitken basin</span> Large impact crater on the Moon

The South Pole–Aitken basin is an immense 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 one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System. It is the largest, oldest, and deepest basin recognized on the Moon. It is estimated that it was formed 4.2 to 4.3 billion years ago, during the Pre-Nectarian epoch. It was named for two features on opposite sides of the basin: the lunar South Pole at one end and the crater Aitken on the northern end. The outer rim of this basin can be seen from Earth as a huge mountain chain located on the Moon's southern limb, sometimes informally called "Leibnitz mountains".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinese space program</span> Space program of the Peoples Republic of China

The space program of the People's Republic of China is about the activities in outer space conducted and directed by the People's Republic of China. The roots of the Chinese space program trace back to the 1950s, when, with the help of the newly allied Soviet Union, China began development of its first ballistic missile and rocket programs in response to the perceived American threats. Driven by the successes of Soviet Sputnik 1 and American Explorer 1 satellite launches in 1957 and 1958 respectively, China would launch its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong 1 in April 1970 aboard a Long March 1 rocket, making it the fifth nation to place a satellite in orbit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chang'e 1</span> Chinese lunar probe launched in 2007

Chang'e 1 was an uncrewed Chinese lunar-orbiting spacecraft, part of the first phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. The spacecraft was named after the Chinese Moon goddess, Chang'e.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Far side of the Moon</span> Hemisphere of the Moon that always faces away from Earth

The far side of the Moon is the lunar hemisphere that always faces away from Earth, opposite to the near side, because of synchronous rotation in the Moon's orbit. Compared to the near side, the far side's terrain is rugged, with a multitude of impact craters and relatively few flat and dark lunar maria ("seas"), giving it an appearance closer to other barren places in the Solar System such as Mercury and Callisto. It has one of the largest craters in the Solar System, the South Pole–Aitken basin. The hemisphere has sometimes been called the "Dark side of the Moon", where "dark" means "unknown" instead of "lacking sunlight" – each location on the Moon experiences two weeks of sunlight while the opposite location experiences night.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apollo (crater)</span> Crater on the Moon

Apollo, also called the Apollo basin, is an enormous impact crater located in the southern hemisphere on the far side of the Moon. This formation dwarfs the large crater Oppenheimer that is located next to the western rim. The crater Barringer lies across the northern wall. To the southeast is the crater Anders, and Kleymenov is just to the east of the rim.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Moon landing</span> Arrival of a spacecraft on the Moons surface

A Moon landing or lunar landing is the arrival of a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon, including both crewed and robotic missions. The first human-made object to touch the Moon was Luna 2 in 1959.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lunar lander</span> Spacecraft intended to land on the surface of the Moon

A lunar lander or Moon lander is a spacecraft designed to land on the surface of the Moon. As of 2024, the Apollo Lunar Module is the only lunar lander to have ever been used in human spaceflight, completing six lunar landings from 1969 to 1972 during the United States' Apollo Program. Several robotic landers have reached the surface, and some have returned samples to Earth.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exploration of the Moon</span> Missions to the Moon

The physical exploration of the Moon began when Luna 2, a space probe launched by the Soviet Union, made a deliberate impact on the surface of the Moon on September 14, 1959. Prior to that the only available means of exploration had been observation from Earth. The invention of the optical telescope brought about the first leap in the quality of lunar observations. Galileo Galilei is generally credited as the first person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes; having made his own telescope in 1609, the mountains and craters on the lunar surface were among his first observations using it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chinese Lunar Exploration Program</span> Lunar research program (2004 – present)

The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, also known as the Chang'e Project after the Chinese Moon goddess Chang'e, is an ongoing series of robotic Moon missions by the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chang'e 2</span> Chinese Moon orbiter

Chang'e 2 is a Chinese uncrewed lunar probe that was launched on 1 October 2010. It was a follow-up to the Chang'e 1 lunar probe, which was launched in 2007. Chang'e 2 was part of the first phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, and conducted research from a 100-km-high lunar orbit in preparation for the December 2013 soft landing by the Chang'e 3 lander and rover. Chang'e 2 was similar in design to Chang'e 1, although it featured some technical improvements, including a more advanced onboard camera. Like its predecessor, the probe was named after Chang'e, an ancient Chinese moon goddess.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chang'e 3</span> Lunar exploration mission operated by the China National Space Administration

Chang'e 3 is a robotic lunar exploration mission operated by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), incorporating a robotic lander and China's first lunar rover. It was launched in December 2013 as part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. The mission's chief commander was Ma Xingrui.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chang'e 4</span> Chinese lunar lander & rover

Chang'e 4 is a robotic spacecraft mission in the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program of the CNSA. China achieved humanity's first soft landing on the far side of the Moon with its touchdown on 3 January 2019.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chang'e 5</span> Chinese lunar exploration mission

Chang'e 5 was the fifth lunar exploration mission in the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program of CNSA, and China's first lunar sample-return mission. Like its predecessors, the spacecraft is named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang'e. It launched at 20:30 UTC on 23 November 2020, from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Hainan Island, landed on the Moon on 1 December 2020, collected ~1,731 g (61.1 oz) of lunar samples, and returned to the Earth at 17:59 UTC on 16 December 2020.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2024 in spaceflight</span> Spaceflight-related events during the year 2024

The year 2024 is expected to exceed 2023's 223 orbital launches. So far, the year saw the successful first launch of Vulcan Centaur, Gravity-1, and notably more developmental launches of SpaceX's Starship – with IFT-3, IFT-4, IFT-5, and IFT-6 planned for this year. Additionally, the final launch of a Delta family rocket occurred in April with a Delta IV Heavy. In May, China launched the Chang'e 6, the first sample return from the far side of the Moon. Following the trend of the 2020s, it is expected that many more privately-developed launch vehicles will feature a maiden launch in 2024.

<i>Yutu-2</i> Chinese lunar rover

Yutu-2 is the robotic lunar rover component of CNSA's Chang'e 4 mission to the Moon, launched on 7 December 2018 18:23 UTC, it entered lunar orbit on 12 December 2018 before making the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon on 3 January 2019. Yutu-2 is currently operational as the longest-lived lunar rover and the first lunar rover traversing the far side of the Moon.

Chang'e 7 is a planned robotic Chinese lunar exploration mission expected to be launched in 2026 to target the lunar south pole. Like its predecessors, the spacecraft is named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang'e. The mission will include an orbiter, a lander, a mini-hopping probe, and a rover.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Lunar Research Station</span> Planned International lunar base

The International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) (Chinese: 国际月球科研站, Russian: Международная научная лунная станция) is a planned lunar base currently being led by Roscosmos and the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The ILRS will serve as a comprehensive scientific experiment base built on the lunar surface or in lunar orbit that can carry out multi-disciplinary and multi-objective scientific research activities including exploration and utilization, lunar-based observation, basic scientific experiment and technical verification, and long-term autonomous operation. Statements from Roscosmos and CNSA underline that the project will be "open to all interested countries and international partners."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Queqiao-2</span> Chinese lunar communications satellite

Queqiao-2 relay satellite, is the second communications relay and radio astronomy satellites designed to support the fourth phase the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, after Queqiao-1 launched in 2018. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) launched the Queqiao-2 relay satellite on 20 March 2024 to an elliptical frozen orbit around the Moon to support communications from the far side of the Moon and the Lunar south pole.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ICUBE-Q</span> Pakistani lunar nanosatellite

ICUBE-Q or ICUBE-QAMAR is a Pakistani lunar remote sensing observation nanosatellite and is one of the four international payloads of the Chang'e 6 lunar sample-return mission. It is a joint venture between the Institute of Space Technology (IST), Space & Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) and the Intelligent Satellite Technology Center of Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), under the framework of Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO). It is the first deep space mission of Pakistan.

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Chang'e 6
Chang'e 6 lander and ascender.jpg
The Chang'e 6 lander (with the ascender on top) on the far side of the Moon. The photo was taken from a mobile camera that was released from the lander
Mission type Surface sample return
Operator CNSA
COSPAR ID 2024-083A OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
SATCAT no. 59627 OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Mission duration53 days (planned)
46 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes
(in progress)
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer CAST
Launch mass8,350 kg (18,410 lb) [1]
Start of mission
Launch date3 May 2024 (2024-05-03)
09:27:29 UTC [2] [3]
Rocket Long March 5
Launch site Wenchang
End of mission
Landing date25 June 2024 (2024-06-26) (expected)
Landing site Inner Mongolia, China (expected)
Lunar orbiter
Orbital insertion8 May 2024
02:12 UTC [4]
Orbital departure20 June 2024 (expected)
Orbital parameters
Periapsis altitude 200 km (120 mi)
Inclination137°