China’s space agency, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), has announced plans to launch its next mission to the Moon in 2024. The mission, named Chang’e-6 after the Chinese moon goddess, will be China’s second attempt to collect physical samples from the lunar surface.
In a social media announcement, the CNSA stated that the pre-selected landing area for Chang’e-6 will be in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon. The agency aims to discover and collect lunar samples from different regions and ages to enhance human understanding of the Moon.
The Chang’e-6 spacecraft will carry payloads and satellite projects from four countries, including advanced sensors developed by France, Italy, Pakistan, and the European Union’s space agency, ESA. To facilitate communication between the spacecraft and operators on Earth, China will use its newly developed Queqiao-2 relay communication satellite, which is scheduled for completion in the first half of 2024.
The primary objective of the mission is to gather up to 2 kilograms of material from the lunar surface. Researchers will analyze these samples for evidence of water ice and other compounds. China successfully achieved this objective with its Chang’e-5 mission in 2020, becoming one of the few nations, alongside the US and the former Soviet Union, to bring back lunar samples.
China’s announcement comes amidst a series of recent Moon missions by various countries. India’s space agency made its first voyage to the Moon’s surface in August, while Russia’s Luna-25 mission encountered technical difficulties during its landing attempt. Despite the failure, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, stated that valuable data was obtained for future missions.
Japan also launched its ‘Moon sniper’ mission earlier this month, with the aim of deploying a probe on the Moon and achieving a pinpoint landing within 100 meters of its target site.
After the Chang’e-6 mission, China plans to undertake two additional Chang’e missions. These missions will involve sending a robotic lander to the Moon’s south pole and eventually constructing a research station in the area.
China’s ambitious lunar exploration plans demonstrate its commitment to advancing scientific knowledge and expanding its presence in space. By collecting lunar samples and conducting research on the Moon, China aims to contribute to humanity’s understanding of Earth’s natural satellite and pave the way for future space exploration endeavors.
As more countries launch their missions to the Moon, the global scientific community can look forward to new discoveries and collaborations that will further expand our knowledge of the universe.