The China National Space Administration (CNSA) declared that the Chang’e 6 sample return mission is progressing as planned, targeting a lunar surface landing in the first half of 2024. Essential components of the spacecraft have been transported by military cargo planes to Haikou, the capital of Hainan province, and subsequently moved by truck to the Wenchang Space Launch Center for assembly and prelaunch testing. Similar to the Chang’e 5 mission, the Chang’e 6 mission comprises an orbiter, a lander, an ascender, and a reentry module for Earth return.
Upon reaching the Moon’s surface, the lander and ascender will deploy a robotic arm to collect samples, transferring them to the ascender. While the lander conducts its mission on the lunar surface, the orbiter and reentry module will remain in lunar orbit. Following the sample collection, the ascender will lift off from the Moon, rendezvous with the reentry module, and transfer the samples for the journey back to Earth. The lander will also carry payloads from the French Space Agency (CNES) and the European Space Agency (ESA) for on-site observations on the lunar surface. If successful, Chang’e 6 will mark the first return of samples from the far side of the Moon.
China has expressed its openness to collaboration with the global scientific community in space exploration, extending invitations to scientists worldwide, including those from the United States. The CNSA has released a statement encouraging scientists to apply for access to samples returned from the Moon by the Chang’e 5 mission. Currently fostering international partnerships, the CNSA has entered into over 170 agreements with more than 50 countries for future collaborations in the field of space exploration.