China’s next moon mission aims to do something no other country has done before. Its space ambitions did not end there

China National Space Administration

A rendering of the Chang’e-8 mission was shown at the International Space Conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, on October 2.

Hong Kong

China’s lunar mission to bring back the first samples collected from the far reaches of the moon is planned for next year as Beijing expands its ambitious plan to send astronauts to the moon this decade and build an international lunar research station, officials say.

Preparations for the next planned mission, known as Chang’e-6, are progressing smoothly, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement last week. .

This week, CNSA discussed with Chinese officials on Monday its Chang’e-8 mission to 2028. calling for increasing global cooperation on unmanned lunar missions during the International Space Conference in Baku, Azerbaijan.

China’s mission in 2028 will welcome joint „mission-level” projects with other countries and international organizations. Document Published on the CNSA website.

This means China and international partners can work together on spacecraft launch and orbital operations, conduct spacecraft-to-spacecraft „communications” and jointly explore the lunar surface, the document said.

The spacecraft will accommodate 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of foreign science payloads, the company said on its website. This would allow foreign partners to „piggyback” lunar exploration, according to Chinese state media.

China hopes both the upcoming missions and Chang’e-7, planned for 2026, will provide valuable data for the construction of a permanent international research station at the moon’s south pole by 2040 — part of a broader push by Beijing. Great space power.

China has become the first country to send a rover through those efforts At the far side of the moon In 2019, complete construction of its orbit Tiangong Space Station Last year, and announced plans to become the second country to land a Men travel to the moon By 2030

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Part of that plan is to expand Beijing’s international ties through space cooperation — so far only a handful of countries have reportedly joined its planned lunar research station. They include Russia, Venezuela and South Africa, according to Chinese state media.

China is not alone in raising its space program and lunar ambitions, with many countries eyeing the potential scientific advantage, national prestige and access to resources and deep space exploration that successful lunar missions could bring.

Last month, India landed Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft On the Moon, it came closer to the Moon’s South Pole than any other spacecraft in history, becoming the fourth country to accomplish the feat with its lunar landing.

That same week, Russia’s first lunar mission in decades ended in failure Luna 25 spacecraft crashed into the surface of the moon.

The U.S. has also ramped up its lunar program – to begin First test flight Under its Artemis program in 2022, which aims to return US astronauts to the moon in 2025 and build a science base camp there, NASA is also looking at the moon’s south pole.

Like China, the United States is gathering international partners, with more than two dozen countries signing on. Covenants of Artemis China is not currently a signatory to the „peaceful exploration of deep space” treaty.

Beijing’s Chang’e-6 mission will deepen understanding of the far side of the moon next year, following 10 previous missions to the near side facing Earth to collect samples, CSNA said. Report Friday coincided with the Mid-Autumn Festival — a Chinese national holiday associated with the moon.

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„Such samples will help scientists advance studies of the far side … (and) analyze the composition of samples to expand knowledge about the Moon,” Hu Hao, a senior official working on the Chang’e-6 mission, told the Chinese government. media last week.

The spacecraft is planned to touch down in the far South Pole-Aitken Basin and collect dust and rock samples there, Hu was quoted as saying, referring to a large lunar landscape of great scientific interest.

The far side of the moon, which cannot be seen from Earth, is covered in craters, but unlike the near side, it is not dominated by large lunar mares or the dark imprints of ancient volcanic flows – which confuses scientists.

Chang’e-6 will carry payloads and satellites from four spacecraft International partners, according to CNSA.

They include a French-made instrument to detect radon gas, the European Space Agency’s negative ion detector, an Italian laser corner reflector for calibrating radar systems, and Pakistan’s CubeSat, a square-shaped miniature satellite.

Chang’e-7, which aims to search for lunar resources at the moon’s south pole, is expected to continue this mission in 2026, and Chang’e-8 two years later will be able to see how to use lunar materials, officials said.

China has launched five robotic probes since 2007. Its last mission, Chang’e-5, landed on the moon in December 2020 and returned with samples of lunar rocks and soil.

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