The Chang’e-6 probe brought back over 1.9kg of samples from the unexplored far side of the moon – more than China’s previous lunar mission, according to its space agency.
The lunar rock samples were handed over to the Chinese Academy of Sciences at a ceremony in Beijing on Friday, three days after the Chang’e-6 returned to Earth from its historic mission.

“According to preliminary calculations, the Chang’e-6 mission collected 1,935.3 grams [4.26lb] of lunar samples,” the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement.

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China’s Chang’e-6 mission returns to Earth with first samples from moon’s far side

China’s Chang’e-6 mission returns to Earth with first samples from moon’s far side

The samples were collected from the far side of the moon – the first time this has been done – at an impact crater known as the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which always faces away from Earth.

“After the samples are safely transported to the lunar sample laboratory, the researchers of the ground application system will carry out the storage and processing of the lunar samples as planned, and start scientific research,” the CNSA said.

Hu Hao, chief designer of the mission, told reporters on Thursday that the goal for both Chang’e-6 and the previous Chang’e-5 mission was to collect 2kg (4.4lb) of lunar samples.

“Our container is designed to be only so large, so we can’t add any more,” Hu said.

The Chang’e-5 spacecraft brought back about 1.73kg (3.8lb) of lunar soil from the near side of the moon when it returned from its mission in 2020.

The space agency said the samples had “unique scientific significance” and were an “important asset for all mankind”. Studying them could improve “understanding of the evolution of the moon, accelerate mankind’s peaceful exploration and utilisation of lunar resources”.

Li Chunlai, deputy chief designer of the mission, told reporters on Thursday that the samples “may have very different mineral chemical compositions” from those collected from the moon’s near side.

“In other words, we only know about half of the moon from the samples collected in the past,” he said.

That includes samples collected by the Chang’e-5 mission. Li said more than 100 “high-quality” papers had already been published in journals like Nature and Science in less than four years of researching those samples.

One major finding was that volcanic activity on the moon dates back to around 2 billion years ago – extending previous estimates from the Apollo missions by nearly 1 billion years.

Liu Yunfeng, head of international cooperation at the CNSA, said China had launched an international review of research on the Chang’e-5 samples and would make the results available in the future.

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