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China launches lunar probe mission to collect samples for first time from far side of moon

A NASA photo

BEIJING (PTI): China today launched a lunar probe mission to collect samples for the first time from the far side of the moon and bring them to Earth for scientific studies.

The Chang'e-6 mission is tasked with collecting and then returning samples from the moon's far side to Earth -- the first endeavour of its kind in the history of human lunar exploration, China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

The lunar probe was carried by a Long March-5 Y8 rocket which blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site on the coast of China's southern island province of Hainan.

Chang'e 6 consists of four components: an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a re-entry module, according to a report by the state-run China Daily.

After collecting dust and rocks on the moon, the ascender will transport the samples to the lunar orbiter for transfer to the re-entry module, which will carry them back to Earth.

The CNSA said earlier that the mission is poised to make breakthroughs in key technologies, such as automatic sample collection, take-off and ascent from the far side of the moon. Meanwhile, the probe will carry out scientific exploration of the landing zone.

The CNSA has announced that scientific instruments from France, Italy and the European Space Agency/Sweden will be on board the lander of the Chang'e-6 mission and a Pakistani payload on the orbiter. A major space power, China in the past successfully launched unmanned missions to the moon which included landing a rover. China has also sent a rover to Mars.

Earlier, China announced plans for a manned lunar landing by 2030.

India became the first country to land near the little-explored lunar south pole region last year when its Chandrayaan-3's lander, carrying the Pragyaan rover successfully landed there.

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