Sunday, May 19, 2024

China launches rocket to far side of moon to collect samples in world first

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China has launched an uncrewed rocket on a nearly two-month mission to gather rock samples from the far side of the moon in a world-first attempt by any country.

The Long March-5, China’s largest rocket, blasted off at 5.27pm Beijing time (10.27am UK time) from Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern Chinese island of Hainan carrying the eight-ton Chang’e-6 probe in tow.

Chang’e-6 is tasked with landing in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the mysterious far side of the moon, which perpetually faces away from the Earth, after which it will retrieve and return samples.

Today’s launch marks a significant milestone in China’s ambitious space programme – which is banned from operating with Nasa assistance by US law.

Pictured: The Long March-5, China’s largest rocket, blasting off todayReuters

Pierre-Yves Meslin, a French researcher working on the mission, said: “It is a bit of a mystery to us how China has been able to develop such an ambitious and successful programme in such a short time.”

Officials and scientists from France, Italy, Pakistan and the European Space Agency (ESA) – all of which have equipment aboard the vessel – were present at the groundbreaking launch today.

Neil Melville-Kenney, a technical officer at ESA working with Chinese researchers, said: “The far side of the moon has a mystique perhaps because we literally can’t see it.

“We have never seen it apart from with robotic probes or the very few number of humans that have been around the other side.”


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