China to launch 1st sample return mission to moon's far side 'around 2024'
Updated 14:24, 29-Sep-2023
An animation of China's lunar base. /CFP
An animation of China's lunar base. /CFP

An animation of China's lunar base. /CFP

China plans to launch the Chang'e-6 lunar probe to collect samples in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon "around 2024," the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said on Friday.

The far side of the moon is older than the near side. However, all of the 10 lunar sampling returns carried out so far were on the near side of the moon.

As one of the three major lunar terranes, the South Pole-Aitken Basin is the largest and oldest recognized impact basin.

The mission is to collect lunar samples from different regions and ages and return with them, thus improving humans' understanding of the Earth's moon, according to the CNSA.

The mission will carry payloads and satellite programs from France, Italy, Pakistan and the European Space Agency.

China will launch its Queqiao-2 communications relay satellite in the first half of 2024, the agency said, in an effort to support the connection between the spacecraft from the far side of the moon and Earth.

The country will send the Chang'e-7 probe around 2026 to implement resource exploration of the lunar south pole and the Chang'e-8 around 2028 to conduct experiments on lunar resource utilization and to build the basic model of the International Lunar Research Station, according to China's lunar exploration blueprint.

China has finished its three-step lunar exploration program of orbiting, landing and returning, with the Chang'e-5 lunar probe bringing back 1,731g of samples from the moon on December 17, 2020.

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