Chang’e-6 mission: a success for the Moon landing of lander and ascent vehicle

Animation of the lander and ascent module of the Chang'e-6 mission (Image courtesy Xinhua/Jin Liwang)
Animation of the lander and ascent module of the Chang’e-6 mission (Image courtesy Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

It was early morning in China when the lander and ascent module of the Chinese Chang’e-6 mission successfully completed their Moon landing maneuvers in the South Pole-Aitken basin area. The various modules that make up Chang’e-6 were launched on May 3 and reached lunar orbit in recent days. At that point, a series of maneuvers began to make the orbit circular, the modules that were supposed to land on the Moon separated and everything went well. In that area, direct communications with Earth are impossible, so contact was maintained using the Queqiao-2 satellite as a relay.

The Chang’e-6 mission aims to repeat the success of the previous Chang’e-5 by bringing lunar samples back to Earth, this time, from the far side of the Moon. China has considerable ambitions for its space program, which are expected to culminate in sending taikonauts, as they call their astronauts, to the Moon.

Each new mission allows the Chinese to obtain new progress in the development of technologies to be used to build a lunar outpost and new information on the geology of the areas where taikonauts could work in the future. The goal for all space programs aiming to build a base on the Moon is to use local materials, and this means carrying out analyzes of the chosen areas.

The lander and the ascent module of the Chang’e-6 mission performed a series of automated maneuvers while the spacecraft which aims to bring the samples back to Earth remained in orbit. After the Moon landing, the activation of the instruments on board the lander began to verify that they work correctly.

Notoriously, Chinese authorities offer limited information on activities conducted during their space missions. In this case, some instruments were provided by international partners and therefore we can hope that at least part of the data collected will be made public.

An important phase of the Chang’e-6 mission was successful and decisions regarding the launch phase of the ascent module with the lunar samples are now awaited. It will be the next critical moment of the mission.

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