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Chinese Mission Brings Back Rare Samples from Unexplored Lunar Region

China’s most recent mission to the Moon has returned to Earth with unprecedented samples from the previously uncharted far side of our celestial neighbor. The Chang’e-6 spacecraft successfully landed in Inner Mongolia’s desert on Tuesday, concluding a rigorous journey lasting nearly two months. Scientists eagerly anticipate studying the samples retrieved by Chang’e-6, which promise to provide new insights into planetary formation.

China stands alone in its achievement of landing on the Moon’s far side, a milestone first accomplished in 2019. This hemisphere, perpetually facing away from Earth, presents unique challenges due to its immense distance and rugged terrain characterized by vast craters and sparse plains. Researchers are especially intrigued by the potential discovery of ice deposits, which could hold valuable resources such as water, oxygen, and hydrogen.

The success of the Chang’e-6 mission is a matter of great national pride for China, which has intensified its efforts in lunar exploration, attracting international attention, notably from the United States. State media captured the moment officials proudly planted the Chinese flag upon the arrival of the Chang’e-6 capsule in Inner Mongolia’s desert.

President Xi Jinping conveyed congratulations to the mission’s command center, emphasizing the ongoing exploration of deep space to unravel universal mysteries for the benefit of humanity and national progress.

Chang’e-6 launched from a space center in early May, achieving a smooth landing near the Moon’s south pole several weeks later, completing its 53-day mission. Samples collected by the probe will soon be transported to Beijing, as reported by state broadcaster CCTV.

This mission marks China’s sixth lunar expedition and its second to the far side, named in honor of the lunar deity Chang’e from Chinese mythology. The probe, equipped with a drill and robotic arm, gathered soil and rocks, captured surface imagery, and proudly displayed the Chinese flag.

Beijing has invested substantial resources in its space program over the past decade, aiming to narrow the gap with leading spacefaring nations like the US and Russia. Goals include a crewed Moon mission by 2030 and the eventual establishment of a lunar base at the south pole. Meanwhile, the US plans to return astronauts to the Moon by 2026 with the Artemis 3 mission.

Analysts predict an upcoming era of space competition involving not only human exploration but also competition for the exploitation and control of lunar resources.

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