Chang’e-6 in Moon orbit.
Image credit: CNSA/CGTN/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s new Moon lander mission is undertaking a multi-step program involving the four components of the spacecraft: an ascender, a lander, a returner and an orbiter.

“Therefore every step of the Chang’e-6 mission is interlinked and crucial,” said Hu Zhenyu, head of the engineering and technical team of the launch site of the Chang’e-6 mission project, an endeavor that includes international experiments.

“Change’-6 carries four international payloads – a radon measuring instrument from France to detect radon isotopes in the lunar environment, a lunar surface negative ion analyzer developed by the European Space Agency (ESA)/Sweden to detect negative ions and study the interaction between plasma and the lunar surface, a cube-satellite from Pakistan to carry out in-orbit imaging tasks,” Hu added.

Image credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Global Television Network (CGTN)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Also manifested is a laser retro-reflector developed by Italy, as a control point for positioning on the far side of the Moon to conduct joint positioning and distance measurement assistance with other lunar exploration missions, said Hu.

Image credit: Shanghai Jiao Tong University


Meanwhile, data gleaned by the Chang’e-6’s deployed Pakistan cube satellite is being heralded during a ceremony held today in Beijing.

The cube satellite, ICUBE-Q, was developed by Pakistan’s Institute of Space Technology and China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University – the result of the first lunar exploration cooperation project between China and Pakistan. ICUBE-Q separated from the Chang’e-6 orbiter on May 8 to carry out exploration activities such as capturing images of the moon.

Image credit: CGTN/CNSA/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Next step

For the next step, the now-circling lunar probe is spending some 20 days to find the best position for a soft landing on the far side of the Moon by the lander/ascender components.

Within 48 hours after touchdown, a robotic arm will be extended to scoop rocks and soil from the lunar surface and a drill will bore into the lunar topside.

Those lunar collectibles will be placed within the ascender for departure from the Moon and docking with the orbiter/returner in lunar orbit.

After completing all tasks, the Chang’e-6 mission will start its homeward-bound leg. After roughly five days of flight, a returner capsule is to re-enter the atmosphere and land in the Siziwang Banner of north China’s Inner Mongolia.

From launch on May 3 to the Moon and return to Earth of the capsule-contained Moon specimens adds up to a projected 53-day mission.

For an informative video on the international payloads aboard the Chang’e-6 mission, go to:

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