Advanced technologies enable China’s Chang’e-6 to land on far side of moon

China’s Chang’e-6 probe lands on the far side of the moon on June 2, 2024. /CGTN

China’s Chang’e-6 probe landed on the far side of the moon on Sunday, aiming to collect lunar samples from this rarely explored terrain for the first time in human history.

With the support of the Queqiao-2 relay satellite, the probe successfully touched down at its designated landing area at 6:23 a.m. Beijing Time in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The landing process was a real gamble, with designers describing it as “all or nothing.”

Huang Hao with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation told CGTN that “landing on the moon leaves no margin for error.”

“And the risk of something going wrong can be very high. We often compare landing on the moon to treading on thin ice,” he said. “In fact, every landing on an extraterrestrial body involves a huge risk.”

Landing on the far side of the moon meant that the Chang’e-6 probe had to deal with a more rugged part of the moon and required a relay satellite to communicate with Earth.

Huang said that the probe is therefore designed to be more automatic and self-reliant. “Its sensors helped it meticulously select the final best landing point from a general area,” he said.

Unlike landing on Earth, there is no atmosphere on the moon, making it impossible to use parachutes to slow down through air resistance for the landing of the Chang’e-6 probe. Huang said it’s a high-speed landing process. “[It’s] not relying on parachutes or aerodynamic deceleration. It is completely done through the engine reverse thrust,” Huang explained.

During the descent, an autonomous visual obstacle avoidance system was used to automatically detect hurdles, with a visible light camera selecting a comparatively safe landing area based on the brightness and darkness of the lunar surface.

After the landing, the probe is going to complete sampling within two days. It will adopt two methods of moon sampling – using a drill to collect subsurface samples and grabbing samples from the lunar surface with a robotic arm.

(CGTN’s Sun Ye contributed to the story)

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