China has successfully initiated a groundbreaking mission to explore the hitherto unexplored far side of the Moon

,-  A major breakthrough in lunar study has been made by China with the launch of a spacecraft to gather samples from the far side of the Moon.

A world first in space exploration was announced when the unmanned Chang'e-6 probe lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre. The probe, which is slated to fly for 53 days, is supposed to return about two kilogrammes of lunar samples to Earth for thorough examination.

The far side, sometimes called the "dark side," of the Moon is invisible from Earth because of its distance from our world. The far side presents special chances for scientific investigation because of its thicker, older crust and profusion of craters, which can shed important light on the origin and geological past of the Moon.

In highlighting the project's importance, Ge Ping, vice director of China's Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Centre, said that Chang'e-6 will be the first lunar exploration mission to gather samples from the far side of the moon.

The Chang'e-6 probe, so called after the Chinese mythological moon goddess, is destined to touch down in the South Pole-Aitken Basin, a huge lunar basin that is up to 8 kilometres deep and more than 2,500 kilometres wide. The mission will gather lunar soil and rocks and carry out experiments once it lands, opening the door for more scientific discoveries.

This is the first of China's three ambitious unmanned lunar missions scheduled for the next ten years. While Chang'e-8 seeks to evaluate the viability of setting up an International Lunar Research Station, thereby laying the foundation for further lunar research projects, Chang'e-7 will concentrate on investigating the lunar south pole for water resources.

The successful landing of a rover on the far side of the Moon five years ago is one of the noteworthy accomplishments of China's space research efforts. China's space programme is set to match that of the United States, bringing in a new era of space exploration and discovery with plans to send men to the Moon by 2030 and to carry out sample collecting missions to Mars and Jupiter.

(Kania Zhang/Newsline Paper)

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