China plans to launch the Chang’e 6 lunar mission to study the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon and collect samples around 2024, official media reported on Sunday, citing the chief designer of the third stage of China’s lunar exploration program, Hu Hao.
According to the Xinhua news agency, the plans were announced during the China Space Conference held in Nanjing in eastern Jiangsu province. Hu noted that the detailed designing of the mission is currently in progress.
The media outlet notes that the China National Space Administration has invited scientists around the world to participate in the program and offered to develop necessary payloads.
According to Hu, four payloads developed by scientists from France, Sweden, Italy, Russia and China have been preliminary selected. The payloads will be finally determined after the detailed plan of the next lunar mission is released.
China’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission was launched on November 24, 2020. The mission landed on the near side of the Moon on December 1, collected samples during the next two days and headed back to Earth, landing in China’s Inner Mongolia region on December 16.
Chinese scientists are currently working with lunar soil and rock samples collected by Chang’e 5.
China became the third country in history after the United States and the Soviet Union to successfully perform a lunar lander-return mission. China is seeking to construct a prototype of a scientific research station on the Moon by 2030 and planning to carry out lunar scientific research during the upcoming Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8 missions.
China’s Mars Mission
Earlier, China named the country’s first Mars rover Zhurong after the god of fire and war in Chinese mythology, China National Space Administration confirmed.
“On Saturday, a ceremony marking the opening of the Space Day of China took place in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, during which the name of the first Chinese Mars rover was announced. It was chosen based on the results of an international selection campaign, expert assessment and online voting. The rover was named Zhurong,” the statement said, adding that the name symbolized China’s intention “to light the fire of space research.”
The global campaign to collect variants of names for the first Chinese Mars rover was launched in July 2020, online voting on the proposed names took place from January 20 to February 28, 2021.
In February, China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1 successfully entered Mars’ parking orbit. The mission launched in July 2020 includes an orbiter and the rover, which will conduct exploratory works on the planet’s surface upon landing. If everything goes as planned, the first findings will be reported back to Earth within 2021.
Scientists are planning to study the atmosphere, relief, geological characteristics and features of the red planet’s magnetic field, which will help scientists get a clue about the origin and evolution of Mars, and the entire solar system.
The Space Day of China also coincides with the 51st anniversary of the nation’s entry into space. On April 24, 1970, China’s first space satellite Dongfanghong-1 was put into orbit.