Delivery in 53 days: Capsule with soil samples from the Moon’s far side returned to Earth

The Chang’e-6 mission capsule made a successful landing in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China. It delivered to Earth unique samples collected on the far side of the Moon.

The 300-kilogram capsule separated from the Chang’e-6 service module when it was 5,000 kilometers from Earth. On the morning of June 25, it entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean to slow down and then make its final descent.

This event was the culmination of a mission that lasted 53 days. During the mission, Chang’e-6 landed on the southern edge of the 500-kilometer-long Apollo Crater and took the first-ever soil samples from the far side of the Moon. It also launched a microrover and made a number of measurements that have already led to the first discoveries.

According to experts’ estimates, there should be about 2 kilograms of material inside the capsule that returned to Earth. Scientists are looking forward to studying this soil. Its analysis may shed light on why the visible and far sides of the Moon are so different from each other. It can also provide clues about the Moon’s internal structure and the history of the early Solar System.

As for the Chang’e-6 service module, it will continue its journey through the Solar System. It is possible that in the future, the National Space Administration of China will find it some new task — for example, send it to some asteroid or comet, or use it to practice maneuvers and remote observations. 

China is already working on the preparation of the next lunar mission “Chang’e-7”. Its launch is scheduled for 2026. It would land at the moon’s south pole and deliver a descent platform, a rover, and an experimental vehicle that would navigate the surface by jumping.

According to