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Pakistan’s ‘ICube Qamar’ lunar mission launched with Chinese support

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China and Pakistan have set their sights on the moon, promising groundbreaking discoveries that could reshape our understanding of Earth’s celestial neighbour.

Pakistan’s maiden lunar mission, ICube Qamar (ICUBE-Q), has embarked on its voyage, hitching a ride aboard China’s Chang’e-6 orbiter. This comes nearly nine months after India’s Chandrayaan 3 made history with a soft landing on the moon’s south pole.

China’s lunar probe aims to gather samples that could unlock valuable insights into the disparities between the lesser-explored far side and the familiar near side of the moon.

Pakistan’s lunar ascent

Pakistan’s Institute of Space Technology (IST) has developed ICUBE-Q, a compact lunar cubesat weighing around 7kg. The collaborative venture involves IST’s faculty and students, Pakistan’s national space agency Suparco, and China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU).

ICUBE-Q’s objectives

According to a report in the Times of India (ToI), a spokesperson for IST said, “This mission is a testament to Pakistan’s growing capabilities in space technology and our commitment to advancing scientific research.”

Another IST official remarked, “ICUBE-Q represents a major milestone for Pakistan’s space program, and we are excited to be part of this historic mission.”

A stride in space exploration

This latest mission underscores China’s increasingly sophisticated space exploration programme, positioning it as a formidable competitor to the United States (US), the current leader in this field.

China’s space programme has made rapid strides, including hosting a three-member crew aboard its own orbiting space station.

Unlocking scientific opportunities

The moon’s far side, shielded from Earth and external interference, presents unparalleled scientific prospects, especially for radio astronomy. However, given its perpetual facing away from Earth, a relay satellite is essential to maintain communication with the probe.

China’s future lunar ambitions

China harbours aims to land astronauts on the moon by 2030. The nation has outlined three lunar probe missions over the next four years, indicating its commitment to furthering its understanding of the moon and beyond.

First Published: May 03 2024 | 6:42 PM IST

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