China will be the first to retrieve soil samples from the far side of the Moon

A spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.
China’s Chang’e 6 ascender carrying lunar samples took off from the far side of the Moon on June 4th. | Image: China National Space Administration

China’s Chang’e 6 spacecraft lifted off from the lunar surface today, bringing with it the first samples taken from the far side of the Moon.

Chang’e 6’s ascender launched from the back of the Moon, the side facing away from Earth, at 7:38AM Beijing time. The spacecraft had landed there, at the South Pole–Aitken Basin, around two days earlier. Its lander carried cameras, a soil structure detector, and a mineral spectrometer for analyzing geologic samples. The probe used its robotic arm and drilling tools to take samples. Chang’e 6 also carried payloads from the European Space Agency, France, and Italy for “scientific exploration.”

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