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China's Chang'e 6 space probe sets out to explore the hidden side of the moon

China's Chang'e 6 space probe sets out to explore the hidden side of the moon

Successful launch of the Chinese Chang'e 6 space probe, which took off on May 3 towards the far side of the moon. Why are we exploring this side of the moon that is not visible to us from Earth? And how? What will China do there?

The new Chang'e 6 mission, named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang'e, will return rock samples from the far side of the moon, the first of its kind in human history. a Land Or rather a The unknown color Just ago China It was able to land a rover there in 2018 with the automated Chang'e 4 mission, which continues to provide information about this slope of Earth that is invisible from Earth and still completely unexplored.

Clearly, the location chosen by the Chinese on this hidden side of the moon was not random. It is the remains of a giant crater located in the southern hemisphere of the Moon that contains a potential reservoir of rocks coming from the depths of the lunar mantle, hence the interest in taking these rock samples there, and then returning them to Earth for analysis.

Because China is part of a very closed circle of space powers capable of bringing samples from the Moon to Earth, with the United States during the Apollo missions and Russia Soviet with Luna mission. China has already returned 1,731 grams of lunar rocks with the Chang'e 5 mission in 2020, and is preparing to repeat the feat on the far side of the Moon, the side that astronaut William Anders, the first human, observed during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968, described. As follows: ” The other side (of the moon) looks like a pile of sand that my children once played with. »

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A lunar sandbox whose secrets scientists dream of unlocking. But we still need to be able to collect them and, above all, return them to Earth using the advanced instruments on board the Chang'e 6 lander.

Read alsoThe lunar mission of the Chinese Chang'e-6 probe: with Dorn, a radon researcher, on board

Towards an international station on the moon in 2030?

As always in space together we go further, in collaboration with other international players, starting with CNES and the Research Institute of Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, which designed the Dorn radon detector (to track the presence of water and uranium on the Earth's surface). the moon). This will also be the first time a French instrument has been found on the moon. The Chinese probe also carries a cube of Pakistani nanosatellites, a Swedish ion detector, and an Italian laser reflector.

Once placed on the lunar soil after staying in orbit, underground drilling will be carried out very quickly within 48 hours to take a core of lunar rock at a depth of two meters, and this capsule of the sample taken will be another first. It will then join the orbital module that will transport it to Earth for analysis at the end of June. Which will also allow us to better understand the terrain with a view to installing a base. A return to the Moon is actually on everyone's minds and is in the works by international space agencies.

An international research station at the lunar south pole is theoretically supposed to see the light in 2030, and the Chinese space agency is heavily involved in this future lunar base. With this in mind, 100 Chinese scientists have just produced the most complete geological atlas of the Moon to date, a prestigious scientific journal. nature Who teaches us it? Compiling geological surveys conducted by all lunar missions from Apollo to Chang'e, this new lunar atlas in Chinese and English, which required more than ten years of work, has been integrated into the Digital Lunar Platform and should soon be available for consultation by the international scientific community. The whole, whose feet are still on the ground, but whose head is already in the moon, even on its hidden side.

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