Chang'e 6 has landed! Whats next? How did it go?

Chang'e 6 has landed! Whats next? How did it go?

China kicked off its Chang'e 6 lunar far-side sample return mission at 17:27 pm China Standard Time, or 09:27 am Universal Coordinated Time, May 3rd. The Long March 5 vehicle carrying the Chang'e 6 lifted off at the start of its launch window. Ascent into low Earth orbit atop of the launch vehicle occurred as planned.

China's Chang'e-6 mission's orbiter-lander entered lunar orbit on May 8, 2024. After a series of maneuvers on June 1st the ascender-lander separated from the orbiter-return platform preparing for the landing procedure. China's Chang'e 6 landing procedure was then set for early in the morning of June 2nd, Beijing time.

Full stack mockup with the lander pictured on the top of the stack with the orbiter on bottom.

The lander on the surface will use its drill and scooping device to collect about 2 kg of samples from 2 meters below the surface. The samples will then be placed in an attached ascent vehicle to be launched into lunar orbit to rendezvous and dock with the orbiter. Upon transfering the samples the orbiter will then begin its journey back to Earth.

The landing process only had a short window of 15 minutes, which can be said to be the biggest test for the scientific research team. The landing coordinates are located on the back of the moon at 42.1 degrees south latitude and 154.4 degrees west longitude. The Chang'e 6 lander completed its landing procedures at 6:23 Beijing time.

How many things does Chang'e 6 have to do in these precious 15 minutes? First, it has to slow down so that it can't crash into the moon like a rocket. Then, it has to adjust its attitude to ensure that it approaches the lunar surface steadily.

The sampling process and the moon landing process takes only 48 hours in total. After the sampling is completed, the ascender will take off, send the samples to the lunar orbit, and dock with the orbiter-return assembly. This process must be very precise, because the environment in the lunar orbit is very complex, and failure may occur if you are not careful.

Footage of the Chang'e 5 descent towards the lunar surface.

After the docking is successful, the samples are safely transferred to the returner. Then, the orbiter-returner assembly will enter an orbit back to Earth, ready to bring the samples back to Earth. Finally, the return capsule will enter the Earth's atmosphere, just like the meteors we usually see. However, this meteor is different. It must land precisely at the landing site in China. When the return capsule successfully lands, it means that the Chang'e 6 mission has been successfully completed!

Chang'e 6 is also a large scale international collaboration. it holds scientific research equipment from countries such as France, ESA, Italy, and Pakistan on board Chang'e-6 to participate in this lunar exploration. These samples will be the first ever to be retrieved from the lunar far side and from this region.

Chang'e 6 landing is a massive step towards the completion of the mission. According to CNSA sampling is about to begin and the Chang'e 6 now has only sampling, launch, rendezvous and return left. Let's all wish Chang'e 6 safe travels and congratulations to China and the CNSA