China’s Chang’e-6 returns with historic Moon samples

China’s Chang’e-6 lunar probe has returned to Earth with the first samples from the Moon’s far side, landing in the Inner Mongolia desert on Tuesday after a nearly two-month mission. This achievement could provide crucial insights into planetary formation. China is the only nation to have landed on the Moon’s far side, having first done so in 2019. This region, challenging due to its distance and terrain, is of interest for potentially containing ice, which could be used for water, oxygen, and hydrogen.

The mission has generated national pride and drawn attention from the United States. China’s state media, Xinhua, broadcasted images of officials planting the Chinese flag after the capsule landed. President Xi Jinping congratulated the mission team, encouraging further deep space exploration to benefit humanity and advance China’s scientific endeavors.

Launched in early May, Chang’e-6 landed near the Moon’s south pole and completed its mission in 53 days. The probe, equipped with a drill and robotic arm, collected soil and rock samples, took surface photos, and planted a flag. The samples will be analyzed in Beijing.

China’s ambitious space program aims to send a crewed mission to the Moon by 2030 and establish a lunar base. Meanwhile, the US plans to return astronauts to the Moon by 2026 with its Artemis 3 mission. Analysts predict a new space race focusing on lunar resource control.

Photo credit: Xinhua/Jin-Liwang