The ascent module of the Chinese Chang'e-6 probe successfully took off from the lunar surface on Tuesday and carried samples from the far side, a world first, the Chinese Space Administration announced.

This announcement marks a new stage in China's ambitious space program, which aims to send a manned mission to the Moon by 2030.

The ascent module “of the Chinese probe Chang'e-6 took off from the lunar surface Tuesday morning carrying samples collected on the far side of the Moon, an unprecedented feat in the history of human lunar exploration” , indicated the official Xinhua news agency, citing the Chinese Space Administration (CNSA).

It is “an unprecedented feat in the history of human exploration of the Moon,” said the space administration, and “the mission withstood the test of high temperatures on the far side of the Moon.” the moon”.

After takeoff, the module “entered a predefined orbit around the Moon,” added the CNSA.

Chang'e-6 landed on Sunday in the immense South Pole-Aitken basin, one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system, located on the far side, according to the space administration.

The probe's mission, with a planned duration of 53 days, began on May 3, with the particular objective of collecting samples. To do this, it has a drill to recover samples from below the surface, and a robotic arm to grab material directly from the surface.

“Very proud”

After successfully collecting samples, “a Chinese flag carried by the lander was deployed for the first time on the far side of the Moon,” reported Xinhua.

Scientists believe that the far side of the Moon – a rarely explored region, so called because it is invisible from Earth and not because it never captures the Sun's rays – holds great promise for research because its craters are less covered by old lava flows than those on the visible side.

Samples taken from the far side could help us learn more about the formation and history of Earth's natural satellite.

They will also make it possible to better understand “the origin of the solar system” and to better prepare for future explorations, underlined a spokesperson for the Chang'e-6 mission, Ge Ping, quoted by the Xinhua news agency.

The Chinese space agency has not provided information on the continuation of the mission.

According to specialized sites, the samples should remain in lunar orbit for a few weeks before beginning their return to Earth around June 25.

“As a Chinese, I am very proud of my country's breakthroughs” in lunar exploration, Mr. Liu, a 23-year-old designer met in the streets of Beijing, told AFP.

“I think Chinese astronauts will be able to land on the moon in the next decade,” said the young man who did not wish to give his full name.

Humans on the Moon

China hopes to launch its first manned mission to the Moon by 2030. It also plans to build a lunar base.

The Chang'e-6 mission is part of China's ambitious lunar program.

Among his main feats of arms, he succeeded in safely landing a device on the far side of the Moon in 2019 – a world first.

In 2020, it also brought back lunar samples, from the visible side of the star, which was a first for a country in more than 40 years.

China has significantly expanded its space programs under President Xi Jinping, pumping billions of dollars into the sector in a bid to catch up with leaders in the United States and Russia.

It has already recorded several successes, notably the construction of the Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”) space station where a new crew of three astronauts was sent in April.

The United States accuses the Chinese space program of hiding military objectives and of wanting to ensure Beijing's domination in space.

Washington plans to send astronauts to the Moon again by 2026 with its Artemis 3 mission.

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