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Watch this Chinese spacecraft land on the far side of the moon

China has released some remarkable footage showing its Chang’e 6 spacecraft making a touchdown on the far side of the moon.

The successful landing took place in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on Sunday, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) confirmed.

The agency later shared footage (top) from a downward-facing camera attached to the uncrewed spacecraft, which shows the surface of the moon up close as the vehicle comes in to land.

Landing on the far side of the moon is a challenging maneuver as the location — facing away from Earth — presents communication challenges between the lander and mission controllers. Indeed, China is the only country to have achieved the feat, first performing it during the Chang’e 4 mission five years ago.

To ensure a smooth landing, the Chang’e-6 lander deployed an autonomous visual obstacle avoidance system to keep it away from hazards such as large rocks or deep pits. The delicate operation, which involved hovering above the lunar surface at an altitude of about 100 meters, was supported by China’s Queqiao-2 relay satellite. Once a safe landing area had been selected, the final descent process could proceed.

China’s latest lunar mission launched on May 3 and will spend several days gathering the first rock and soil from the far side of the moon before bringing it to Earth later this month so that scientists can study it in laboratory conditions. The hope is that their findings will reveal more about how celestial bodies are formed and the origin of water in our solar system, among other things.

The CSNA is confident that it can achieve its ambitious goal after having already brought lunar samples to Earth as part of the Chang’e 5 mission in 2020.

China, like the U.S., is also considering building a permanent base on the moon where humans will be able to live and work in unique conditions, similar to how crews spend time in the countries’ respective space station in low-Earth orbit today.

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Trevor Mogg
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