Chang’e-6 probe headed back to earth per news agency

Chinese state-run media say an uncrewed spacecraft is headed back to Earth after blasting off from the far side of the moon Tuesday June 4.

The China National Space Administration says the ascender module of the Chang’e-6 probe entered a preset lunar orbit shortly after liftoff, according to a report by the Xinhua news agency.

The Chang’e-6 probe landed on the moon’s far side Sunday on the South Pole-Aitken Basin, a wide impact crater that is one of the largest in the solar system. The probe used a drill to collect materials below the surface and placed them in a container in the ascender probe.

The materials collected from the far side could provide clues about the origins of the moon and solar system because its craters have fewer ancient lava flows than the near side.

Chinese news reports say the probe raised the Chinese national flag during its brief stay. The probe remained in contact with ground controllers using a relay satellite placed into orbit in April.

Chang’e-6 is the second Chinese probe to collect samples of lunar soil and rocks and bring them back to Earth, after Chang’e-5 retrieved samples from the near side of the moon in 2005.

The Chang’e lunar probes are part of Beijing’s ambitions to compete with traditional powers the United States and Russia in a new space race. China has established its own permanent crewed space station and plans to send a crewed mission to the moon by 2030.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse. [VOA News]

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