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China has launched a spacecraft to the far side of the moon

On a clear Friday evening, as the sun dipped below the horizon, a significant milestone in moon exploration occurred on the shores of Hainan, China. Named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess, the Chang’e-6 lunar probe launched into space with an unprecedented mission – to delve into the less-explored far side of the moon.

This initiative, a key part of China’s ambitious lunar agenda, aims to explore and unravel the mysteries of a region hidden from Earth’s view.

Pioneering science and international cooperation

The journey of Chang’e-6 is not just a testament to China’s technological prowess but also a beacon of international collaboration in space exploration.

Equipped with scientific instruments from France, Italy, and the European Space Agency, and carrying a small Pakistani satellite, this mission underscores the spirit of global partnership.

Zhang Zuosheng, the mission commander, announced at the launch: “I declare this launch mission a complete success,” marking a precise entry into the moon’s orbit as planned.

Objectives of the far side mission

The objectives of the mission are as intriguing as they are vital. The far side of the moon, shielded from Earth’s electromagnetic interference, offers pristine conditions for radio astronomy and could yield insights into the universe’s dark ages.

By drilling into the moon’s surface and returning samples, scientists hope to understand the differences in composition between the moon’s far side and its more familiar counterpart.

China’s moon missions and strategic space goals

This mission is a cornerstone of China’s broader space strategy. Following a historic achievement in 2020, when China became the first country in nearly half a century to return moon samples, the nation now sets its sights higher.

The ongoing plans include not just additional lunar missions but also ambitious endeavors such as manned lunar landings by 2030 and the exploration of Mars.

Simultaneously, China continues to expand its capabilities closer to home. The Tiangong space station, orbiting Earth, serves as a hub for scientific research and technological testing.

Unlike the International Space Station, from which China was excluded due to U.S. national security concerns, Tiangong operates under Chinese governance, potentially becoming a sole operational space station in the future as the ISS nears retirement.

The global stage of space exploration

As spectators and scientists alike watched the rocket’s successful launch, the event was not without its international dimensions.

The Philippine Space Agency monitored for debris, which fell within expected zones, highlighting the complexities and responsibilities of spacefaring nations.

This mission also occurs against a backdrop of intensifying global competition in space, particularly between China and the U.S., which plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2026 in collaboration with private entities like SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Envisioning moon missions and beyond

China’s journey in space, beginning with its inaugural manned spaceflight in 2003, has quickly established it as a significant player in cosmic exploration.

Looking ahead, China envisions constructing a permanent base on the moon and possibly offering access to its space station to international astronauts and tourists.

As the global community watches, each successful mission further illuminates our understanding of the moon and sets new standards for our achievements in space.

Through ongoing explorations, China is not only expanding its technological reach but also enriching our collective knowledge of space.

Inviting the world to join in its celestial journey, China’s space endeavors, especially the ongoing Chang’e-6 mission, are poised to unveil new secrets of our nearest celestial neighbor, the moon. This mission could unlock mysteries that have remained hidden in the lunar shadows for millennia.

The far side of the moon

The far side of the moon, often referred to as the “dark side” despite it receiving just as much sunlight as the side facing Earth, remains a place shrouded in mystery largely due to its constant orientation away from our planet.

This side of the moon is never visible from Earth because of the phenomenon of tidal locking, where the moon’s rotational period matches its orbit around Earth perfectly, always showing the same face to us.


The terrain of the far side is notably different from the familiar near side with its prominent dark volcanic maria. Instead, it features a rougher landscape with more craters and less basaltic plains.

Notably, it houses one of the largest and oldest impact features in the solar system, the South Pole-Aitken basin, which is about 2,500 kilometers in diameter and 13 kilometers deep.


The far side’s composition also includes a thicker crust and a scarcity of maria, which may be due to a difference in the thickness of the moon’s crust between the near side and the far side. This difference is significant enough that it might have influenced the volcanic activity and the consequent lack of maria.


Scientific exploration of the far side began in earnest with the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft in 1959, which was the first to send back images. 

Since then, several missions have targeted this less-studied half, culminating in the Chinese Chang’e 4 mission, which made history in 2019 by achieving the first soft landing on the far side.

This mission, along with its rover Yutu-2, has been investigating the surface and subsurface, providing invaluable data that helps scientists better understand the moon’s geology and history.


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