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China's Chang'e-6 mission important step in international collaboration in lunar exploration

Gong Zhe , Sun Ye


China's Chang'e-6 mission, which returned to Earth on Tuesday carrying the world's first samples from the far side of the moon, was a significant milestone in space science exploration. It was also an important step in international space cooperation, as by carrying the first French scientific instrument to the moon since 1970, the Chang'e-6 probe signified a new chapter in international collaboration for lunar exploration.

French scientific instrument returns after decades

The French instrument, Detection of Outgassing Radon or DORN, studied the movement of lunar dust and gases between the moon's surface and its thin atmosphere.

Philippe Baptiste, chairman of the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES), expressed his satisfaction with the mission's success. "It was a very nice comeback. We were very happy to come back. Everything went pretty fine for what we know right now."

Read more: China launches new astronomical satellite developed in cooperation with France

China has pledged to increase openness in future space missions, offering more opportunities for international collaboration. "I believe more will work with us, and cooperation will deepen even more," said Wang Qiong, deputy chief designer of the Chang'e-6 mission, who is also involved in the Chang'e-7 and -8 missions currently under development.


Wang confirmed that all the international payloads aboard Chang'e-6 functioned well and that the data has been shared with relevant countries and institutions.

China has rekindled interest in the moon

China plans to put the first taikonauts on the moon by 2030 and establish a lunar research base through international cooperation, a lucrative offer for other countries. Experts believe the technologies used in the Chang'e-6 mission, particularly the spacecraft docking capabilities in lunar orbit, will be instrumental for manned missions.

China's broader lunar exploration goals include unraveling the mysteries of the moon's interior, a project dubbed "transparent moon." Scientists aim to use probes to understand the moon's composition, material distribution and other internal characteristics.


"We know a lot about the lunar surface, we have high-resolution cameras, spectrometers for that. But we don't know enough about the inside of the moon," Zou Yongliao, director of the Lunar and Deep Space Exploration Department at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told CGTN. "We hope to use multi-physical field probes to help us understand the interior of the moon. For example, what are the materials inside, how are they distributed, and what are the characteristics of those materials?"

The Chang'e-5 mission, which retrieved lunar samples from the moon's near side in 2020, has already yielded significant scientific discoveries. The samples, the youngest lunar basalt ever collected, have led to the identification of a new lunar mineral called Changesite, a better understanding of the moon's formation and evidence of water on the lunar surface.


The distribution of Chang'e-5 samples to over 100 international research teams has further fueled global interest in lunar science.

Click here for more news about the Chang'e-6 mission and China's space program.

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