December 2, 2023

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China’s upcoming moon mission aims to do what no country has ever done. Its space ambitions do not end there

China’s upcoming moon mission aims to do what no country has ever done.  Its space ambitions do not end there

China National Space Administration

A demonstration of the Chang’e-8 mission was shown at the International Astronautical Congress held in Baku, Azerbaijan, on October 2.

Hong Kong

China’s lunar mission to return the first samples ever collected from the far side of the moon will launch next year, officials said, as Beijing steps up its ambitious plan to send astronauts to the moon this decade and build an international lunar research station.

Preparations for the next planned mission – known as Chang’e-6 – are progressing smoothly, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement last week, adding that a satellite accompanying the mission will be deployed in the first half of next year. .

This week, CNSA is also eyeing the Chang’e-8 mission scheduled for 2028, with Chinese officials on Monday. Connection To increase global cooperation for unmanned lunar mission during the International Astronautical Congress in Baku, Azerbaijan.

In 2028, the Chinese mission will welcome “mission-level” joint projects with other countries and international organizations, according to an accompanying report. document Released on the CNSA website.

This means China and international partners can work together to launch and operate spacecraft in orbit, conduct spacecraft “interactions” and jointly explore the lunar surface, the document said.

The spacecraft will also provide space for 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of foreign science payloads, the agency said on its website. Chinese state media said this could allow foreign partners to conduct research on the moon by “participating” in the mission.

China expects the two upcoming missions, and the Chang’e-7 spacecraft scheduled to launch in 2026, will produce valuable data for building a permanent international research station at the lunar south pole by 2040 — part of Beijing’s broader drive to become a leading nation. A major space power.

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These efforts made China the first country to send a rover to the world Far side of the moon In 2019, completion of the construction of its orbit Tiangong Space Station Last year, it announced its plans to become only the second country to land A manned mission on the moon By 2030.

Expanding Beijing’s international ties through space cooperation is also part of this plan – although so far only a few countries have been reported to have joined the planned lunar research station. These countries include Russia, Venezuela and South Africa, according to Chinese state media.

China is not alone in raising the profile of its space program and lunar ambitions, with many countries eyeing the potential scientific benefits, national prestige, access to resources and further deep space exploration that successful lunar missions can bring.

Last month, India fell Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft On the moon, becoming only the fourth country to achieve this achievement, as its landing on the moon’s surface reached the south pole of the moon more than any other spacecraft in history.

That same week, Russia’s first mission to the moon in decades ended in failure Luna 25 spacecraft It collided with the surface of the moon.

The United States also strengthened its lunar program, launching the moon First test flight In 2022 under the Artemis program, which aims to return American astronauts to the moon in 2025 and build a scientific base camp there, with NASA also eyeing the lunar south pole.

Like China, the United States has also been working to bring together international partners, with more than twenty countries signing its agreement Artemis Accords Standards for “peaceful deep space exploration.” China is not among the current signatories.

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The Chinese Space Agency said in a report that the Chang’e-6 mission, which will be launched in Beijing next year, will work to deepen understanding of the far side of the Moon, by collecting samples after 10 previous missions to the near side facing Earth. statement Friday, and coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival – a Chinese national holiday associated with the moon.

Hu Hao, a senior official working on the Chang’e-6 mission, told the Chinese state: “Such samples will enable scientists to develop their studies on the far side… (and) analyze the composition of the samples to expand knowledge about the moon.” media last week.

The spacecraft is scheduled to land in Antarctica’s Aitken Basin on the far side, and will collect dust and rock samples there, Hu said, referring to a large lunar landform of great scientific interest.

The far side of the Moon, which cannot be seen from Earth, is covered in craters, but unlike the near side it is not dominated by large lunar mare, or dark imprints of ancient lava flows – a difference that puzzles scientists.

The Chang’e-6 spacecraft will also carry payloads and four satellites International partners, according to CNSA.

These include a French-made instrument to detect radon gas, a negative ion detector from the European Space Agency, an Italian laser angle reflector to calibrate radar systems, and Pakistan’s CubeSat, a small square-shaped satellite, she added.

The mission is expected to be followed by Chang’e-7 in 2026, which aims to search for lunar resources at the moon’s south pole, and Chang’e-8 two years later, which could investigate how to make use of lunar materials. . Officials said.

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China has launched five robotic probes since 2007. Its last mission, Chang’e-5, landed on the moon in December 2020 and returned with samples of lunar rocks and soil.