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Scooping a Treasure Chest Full of Lunar History, China's Lunar Mission Hailed by Int'l Scientific Community

Source: Science and Technology Daily | 2024-06-17 14:11:14 | Author: Staff Reporters

Image taken and beamed back to Earth autonomously by a mini rover, released from the lander-ascender combination of Chang'e- 6 probe, shows a view of the lander-ascender on the lunar surface,June 3, 2024. (PHOTO: China National Space Administration)

By Staff Reporters

On June 2, Chang'e-6 lunar mission made headlines after it successfully landed on the far side of the moon within the South Pole-Aitken Basin, the pre-selected area. The landing also elevates China's space power status in a global rush to the moon, said Reuters.

After collecting 2kg of rock samples, the Chang'e-6 robotic moon-ascender lifted off from the lunar surface on June 4, and embarked on its much-awaited return to the Earth. Ahead of its takeoff, Chang'e 6 extended a robotic arm to raise the Chinese flag for the first time on the moon's far side. The flag, made of novel composite materials and special processes, can resist corrosion and the extreme temperatures on the lunar far side.

The historic mission has been celebrated by the international scientific community.

"This is a very important achievement," Professor Martin Barstow of the University of Leicester in the UK, told the Guardian. "It demonstrates an impressive capability in China's space programme. It's a technical feat to take off from the moon at all but even more challenging when carried out on its far side."

"Everyone is very excited that we might get a look at these rocks no one has ever seen before," Professor John Pernet-Fisher, a lunar geology specialist at the University of Manchester told the BBC. He said analyzing those samples could answer fundamental questions about how planets are formed.

In an article published by Nature, planetary geologist Jim Head at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island said the scientific value of Chang'e-6 samples will be very high if successfully returned as they will be the first rocks ever retrieved from the moon's far side. "Obtaining dates and compositional information from many hundreds of fragments sampled by the Chang'e-6 drill and scoop is like having a treasure chest full of critical parts of lunar history, and will very likely revolutionize our view of the entire moon," said Head.

If everything proceeds as expected, the mission will offer China an untouched record of the moon's 4.5 billion-year history and provide new insights into the solar system's formation. Additionally, it will enable an unparalleled comparison between the dark, unexplored region and the moon's more familiar Earth-facing side, Reuters reported.

The mysterious lunar far side differs from the near side in many ways, making it impossible for lunar scientists to fully comprehend the moon as a whole planetary body without returned samples, Head, who has collaborated with Chinese scientists leading the mission, said to CNN. "Returned samples from Chang'e 6 will permit major strides to be made in solving these problems."

So far, Chang'e-6 has completed one of the most challenging parts of the entire mission: rendezvous and docking of the ascender with the orbiter and transferring the samples.

"We planetary scientists are crossing fingers for the success of the rest of the mission," planetary scientist Michel Blanc at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology, in Toulouse, France, told Nature.

Editor: 龚茜

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