China Shoots For The Moon

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China Shoots For The Moon

#1 Post by PHXPhlyer » Fri May 03, 2024 6:03 pm

China launches Chang'e 6 lunar probe, revving up space race with U.S.
The first-of-its-kind mission aims to bring back samples from the far side of the moon and is the latest step in a rapidly advancing Chinese space program.

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/c ... rcna143985

WENCHANG SPACE LAUNCH SITE, China — China launched an uncrewed lunar spacecraft Friday in a first-of-its-kind mission to bring back samples from the far side of the moon, the latest step in a rapidly advancing Chinese space program that is spurring competition with the United States and others.

The Chang’e 6 lifted off on time at 5:27 p.m. local time (5:27 a.m. ET) from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in China’s southern island province of Hainan.

The launch of the lunar probe, which NBC News was one of a handful of news organizations to attend, and the national excitement around it had transformed the normally sleepy fishing village of Longlou into a major tourist attraction, with crowds spilling from tour buses and heading to beaches and rooftops with the best views of the spaceport. One rooftop owner said he had sold out 200 seats at 200 yuan (about $28) each.

Ahead of the launch there was a festival-like atmosphere on the beach, where vendors offered space paraphernalia and groups of children sold Chinese flags for 3 yuan (about 40 cents) each. Families sprawled on picnic blankets playing cards, while others strung up hammocks between palm trees so they could wait in the limited shade.

Yiuwah Ng, a 28-year-old real estate office worker from the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai, traveled six hours by car and another three hours by ferry to stake out the best spot along the shore, where he had been camping for three days with friends and his dog.

“I want to witness this historic moment,” he said of the launch, his fourth. “It’s an important first step for China’s lunar exploration.”

Max Zhang, a self-described “rocket chaser” from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, has been photographing launches at Wenchang from the beach since 2011.

“I’m addicted to the shock of seeing the launches, especially the sound of the rocket flame,” he said. “It shakes my heart.”
‘A force to be reckoned with’
If successful, the Chang’e mission will be a crucial step in realizing the country’s goals of landing Chinese astronauts on the moon by 2030 and eventually building a base on the lunar surface.

The outcome of the mission will also have implications far beyond China’s borders. A slew of spacefaring nations — including Russia, India, Japan and the U.S. — also have their sights set on the moon, creating what some experts have likened to a new kind of space race.

“China is trying to prove that it’s a force to be reckoned with, and so it’s always that China is competing against everyone in space,” said Clayton Swope, deputy director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

A successful Chang’e 6 mission would demonstrate how sophisticated China’s lunar exploration program has become in a relatively short time.

“Twenty-five years ago, they had very rudimentary space capabilities,” said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank based in Washington. “Going from that to where they are today — I think they’ve clearly exceeded Russia, and their space capabilities are really only second to the United States.”

China achieved its first moon landing in 2013 with the Chang’e 3 mission, which set a lander and rover on the lunar surface to study the moon’s terrain. Before that, only the U.S. and the former Soviet Union had successfully landed spacecraft on the moon.

In 2019, China notched another historic milestone with its Chang’e 4 flight, becoming the first country to land a probe on the far side of the moon, the part that permanently faces away from Earth.

The following year, in 2020, China returned to the moon’s near side, which always faces Earth, landing the Chang’e 5 spacecraft on a volcanic plain known as Oceanus Procellarum. The probe retrieved samples there and brought them back to Earth, representing a big technological leap forward.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has invited scientists from the U.S., Europe and Asia to apply to borrow the lunar samples for their own research, holding a pitch meeting last week in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Researchers funded by NASA received rare approval from Congress to submit proposals, raising the possibility of high-level U.S.-China space cooperation that is otherwise prohibited by U.S. law.

This time, the Chang’e 6 spacecraft is aiming to land and retrieve samples from the South Pole-Aitken basin, an ancient and sprawling impact crater on the far side of the moon.

Conducting a sample return mission from the side of the moon that always faces away from Earth is challenging because mission controllers on the ground have no way of directly contacting a spacecraft in that region. Instead, signals need to be relayed through a satellite now orbiting the moon that China launched from the same site in Hainan last month.

While difficult, the effort could have enormous payoffs. Studies suggest that the moon’s near side was more volcanically active than the far side, which means all of the lunar samples obtained thus far may be telling only part of the story of the moon’s origin and evolution.

Collecting lunar samples from different geological eras and regions “is of great value and significant for all mankind to have a more comprehensive understanding of the moon and even the origin of the solar system,” Ge Ping, a mission leader from CNSA’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center, told reporters in Hainan on Thursday.

Beyond its scientific objectives, the Chang’e 6 mission carries with it geopolitical considerations. The flight is a precursor to a pair of Chinese robotic missions to the moon’s south pole to scout locations to build a moon base. Last year, the Chinese and Russian space agencies agreed to jointly build a research station on the lunar surface.

NASA and its commercial partners also aim to establish a permanent presence at the lunar south pole, though the agency’s Artemis moon missions have faced numerous delays and budget overruns. The current timeline has American astronauts returning to the lunar surface in 2026 at the earliest.

With China and Russia forming a rival coalition, there is some pressure for the U.S. to keep its foot on the accelerator, Harrison said.

“It does matter who gets there first, and it matters how you get there and what kind of coalition you’re bringing with you,” he said.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has on multiple occasions warned that the U.S. runs the risk of falling behind China’s lunar ambitions. In an interview this week with Yahoo Finance, Nelson outlined what’s at stake in the new space race.

“I think it’s not beyond the pale that China would suddenly say, ‘We are here. You stay out,’” he said.

Asked Thursday about international competition in space, Ge said, “All countries in the world should explore, develop and use outer space peacefully.”

“There is no need to worry too much,” he added. “Space programs are for all humans.”

As more countries around the world build up space capabilities, NASA has pushed for more global cooperation, establishing the Artemis Accords in 2020 to promote peaceful, responsible and sustainable practices. U.S. law prevents China from joining the 39 other nations that have signed the accords, which both China and Russia have criticized as a tool to promote U.S. dominance in space.

Many Western space policy experts have in turn raised concerns about China’s and Russia’s intentions. The full scope of China’s ambitions in space is not known, for instance, because its space agency does not operate with the same level of transparency as NASA. The country’s space program is also more closely tied to the military than in the U.S.

“We cannot ever say that China’s investment in civilian space technologies are only civilian and not to be used for military purposes,” said Namrata Goswami, a professor in the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University and co-author of the 2020 book “Scramble for the Skies: The Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space.”

While it may feel as if China’s spaceflight objectives have accelerated in recent years, they are part of a decadeslong strategy, Goswami said.

“Many of the leaders of China’s space program announced these goals and timelines 20 years ago,” she said. “What is astounding to me is that they are achieving almost all their milestones on time, and for them, that has a strategic advantage in the global narrative of who’s doing it better.”

As much as the moon and its resources can provoke competition among nations, space exploration can also be unifying, Swope said.

“We are literally a speck in the universe, and when we go to the moon or explore space, we as humankind have that shared human trait where we want to understand the unknown and we want to discover,” he said. “That does transcend politics.”

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Re: China Shoots For The Moon

#2 Post by PHXPhlyer » Sun Jun 02, 2024 12:43 am

China's Chang'e 6 probe to land on far side of the moon this weekend to return lunar samples to Earth

Touchdown will apparently occur on Saturday night (June 1).

https://www.space.com/china-change-6-pr ... SmartBrief

China's Chang'e 6 moon mission is studying landing sites on the lunar far side for accessibility ahead of a planned touchdown attempt this weekend.

The robotic Chang'e 6 launched on May 3 and entered lunar orbit about five days later. James Head, of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Science at Brown University in Rhode Island, has been working with China's cadre of lunar exploration planners.

At a May 24 meeting of the project science working group for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, Head detailed the progression of China's moon effort, and in a subsequent interview with SPACE.com, shared details of China's moon exploration plans.

Projected landing date
The Chang'e 6 mission profile is essentially identical to that of Chang'e 5, Head told Inside Outer Space. That earlier effort, which landed in December 2020, returned to Earth 61 ounces (1,731 grams) of lunar material from Northern Oceanus Procellarum near a huge volcanic complex called Mons Rümker, on the northwest lunar near side.

Chang'e 6 is apparently targeting a landing on Sunday (June 2) Beijing time, which would likely be Saturday evening (June 1) for folks in North America. The mission will then spend three days studying its landing area and collecting samples. This sequence will be followed by the sample-loaded ascent module rocketing off the moon into lunar orbit, for rendezvous and docking with the mission's lunar orbiter component.

The lunar collectibles will be transferred into a return-to-Earth module for the trek to our planet. If all goes according to plan, the samples, inside their return capsule, will touch down under parachutes here on June 25 (Beijing time).

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Re: China Shoots For The Moon

#3 Post by PHXPhlyer » Sun Jun 02, 2024 12:52 am

China’s Chang’e-6 probe successfully lands on far side of the moon

https://www.cnn.com/2024/06/01/china/ch ... index.html

China’s Chang’e-6 lunar lander successfully touched down on the far side of the moon Sunday morning Beijing time, in a significant step for the ambitious mission that could advance the country’s aspirations of putting astronauts on the moon.

The Chang’e-6 probe landed in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, where it will begin to collect samples from the lunar surface, the China National Space Administration announced.

China’s most complex robotic lunar endeavor to date, the uncrewed mission aims to return samples to Earth from the moon’s far side for the first time.

The landing marks the second time a mission has successfully reached the far side of the moon. China first completed that historic feat in 2019 with its Chang’e-4 probe.

If all goes as planned, the mission — which began on May 3 and is expected to last 53 days — could be a key milestone in China’s push to become a dominant space power.

The country’s plans include landing astronauts on the moon by 2030 and building a research base at its south pole – a region believed to contain water ice.

Samples collected by the Chang’e-6 lander could provide key clues into the origin and evolution of the moon, Earth and the solar system, experts say – while the mission itself provides important data and technical practice to advance China’s lunar ambitions.

Chang’e-6 touched down within an impact crater known as the Apollo Basin, located within the sprawling, roughly 2,500-kilometer-diameter South Pole-Aitken Basin, according to Chinese state media Xinhua. It had orbited the moon for about 20 days as part of a larger probe, which is composed of four parts: an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a re-entry module.

It is now expected to use a drill and a mechanical arm to gather up to 2 kilograms of moon dust and rocks from the basin, a crater formed some 4 billion years ago.

The probe will spend two days on the far side of the moon, and 14 hours to collect moon soil samples, Xinhua reported.

To complete its mission, the lander will need to robotically stow those samples in an ascent vehicle that made the landing with it.

The ascent vehicle will then return to lunar orbit, where it will dock with and transfer the samples to a re-entry capsule, according to mission information provided by the China National Space Administration.

The re-entry capsule and orbiter will then travel back to Earth’s orbit and separate, allowing the re-entry capsule to make its expected return later this month to the Siziwang Banner Landing Site in China’s rural Inner Mongolia region.

The technically complex mission is made more challenging due to where it is being conducted. The far side of the moon is out of range of normal communications, which means Chang’e-6 must also rely on a satellite that was launched into lunar orbit in March, the Queqiao-2.

China plans to launch two more missions in the Chang-e series as it nears its 2030 target of sending astronauts to the moon.

Sunday’s landing comes as a growing number of countries, including the United States, eye the strategic and scientific benefits of expanded lunar exploration in an increasingly competitive field.

Last year, India landed a spacecraft on the moon for the first time, while Russia’s first lunar landing mission in decades ended in failure when its Luna 25 probe crashed into the moon’s surface.

In January, Japan became the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the moon, though its Moon Sniper lander faced power issues due to an incorrect landing angle. The following month, IM-1, a NASA-funded mission designed by Texas-based private firm Intuitive Machines, touched down close to the south pole.

That landing – the first by a US-made spacecraft in over five decades – is among several planned commercial missions intended to explore the lunar surface before NASA attempts to return US astronauts there as soon as 2026 and build its scientific base camp.

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Re: China Shoots For The Moon

#4 Post by PHXPhlyer » Tue Jun 04, 2024 3:29 am

Chinese spacecraft carrying rocks from the far side of the moon leaves the lunar surface
The Chang’e-6 probe was launched last month and its lander touched down on the far side of the moon on Sunday.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/chin ... rcna155338

BEIJING — China says a spacecraft carrying rock and soil samples from the far side of the moon has lifted off from the lunar surface to start its journey back to Earth.

The ascender of the Chang’e-6 probe lifted off Tuesday morning Beijing time and entered a preset orbit around the moon, the China National Space Administration said.

The Chang’e-6 probe was launched last month and its lander touched down on the far side of the moon on Sunday.

Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, cited the space agency as saying the spacecraft stowed the samples it had gathered in a container inside the ascender of the probe as planned.

The container will be transferred to a re-entry capsule that is due to return to Earth in the deserts of China’s Inner Mongolia region around June 25.


Missions to the moon’s far side are more difficult because it doesn’t face the Earth, requiring a relay satellite to maintain communications. The terrain is also more rugged, with fewer flat areas to land.

Xinhua said the probe’s landing site was the South Pole-Aitken Basin, an impact crater created more than 4 billion years ago that is 8 miles deep and has a diameter of 1,500 miles.

Edit;
Wikipedia says that it is 8km deep.
Still a deep hole.

The South Pole–Aitken basin (SPA Basin, /ˈeɪtkɪn/) is an immense impact crater on the far side of the Moon. At roughly 2,500 km (1,600 mi) in diameter and between 6.2 and 8.2 km (3.9–5.1 mi) deep, it is one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Pol ... tken_basin

It is the oldest and largest of such craters on the moon, so may provide the earliest information about it, Xinhua said, adding that the huge impact may have ejected materials from deep below the surface.

The mission is the sixth in the Chang’e moon exploration program, which is named after a Chinese moon goddess. It is the second designed to bring back samples, following the Chang’e 5, which did so from the near side in 2020.

The moon program is part of a growing rivalry with the U.S. — still the leader in space exploration — and others, including Japan and India. China has put its own space station in orbit and regularly sends crews there.

The emerging global power aims to put a person on the moon before 2030, which would make it the second nation after the United States to do so. America is planning to land astronauts on the moon again — for the first time in more than 50 years — though NASA pushed the target date back to 2026 earlier this year.

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Re: China Shoots For The Moon

#5 Post by Boac » Tue Jun 04, 2024 9:52 am

Not sure whether or not Keir Starmer was involved in "Chang’e-6", but an amazing achievement none-the-less. If they manage orbital join-up and a successful return to earth........................... :YMAPPLAUSE:

They did, of course, raise a Chinese flag on site :((

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