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A Chinese spacecraft lands on the far side of the moon

A Chinese spacecraft lands on the far side of the moon

A Chinese spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon on Sunday to collect soil and rock samples that could provide insight into the differences between the less-explored region and the more famous near side.

The China National Space Administration said the spacecraft landed at 6:23 a.m. Beijing time in a huge crater known as the Antarctica-Aitken Basin.

This mission is the sixth in the Chang'e Lunar Exploration Program, named after the Chinese moon goddess. This is the second time the samples have been returned, after Chang'e 5, which did so from the near side in 2020.

China's lunar program is witnessing increasing competition with the United States and other countries, including Japan and India, for space exploration. China has put its own space station in orbit and regularly sends crews there.

The emerging world power aims to put a man on the moon before 2030, making it the second country after the United States to do so, which is planning to land astronauts on the moon again – for the first time in more than 50 years – although NASA has postponed The target date to 2026 was set earlier this year.

US efforts to use private rockets to launch spacecraft have been repeatedly delayed. Last-minute computer problems canceled Saturday's scheduled launch of Boeing's first astronaut flight.

Earlier on Saturday, a Japanese billionaire canceled his plans to orbit the moon due to uncertainty surrounding SpaceX's development of a massive rocket. NASA plans to use the rocket to send its astronauts to the moon.

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In China's current mission, the lander will use a mechanical arm and a drill to collect up to 2 kg of surface and subsurface material to return it to a capsule currently orbiting the moon.

An ascender at the top of the lander will return the samples to the orbiter in a metal vacuum container. 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 they require a relay satellite to maintain communications.