China's upcoming lunar mission, Cheng E6, scheduled for launch in the first half of 2024, will also include the deployment of a Pakistani satellite to the moon's orbit.
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) recently announced on Weibo that the Cheng E6 mission is set to embark on its lunar journey in early 2024. This mission is noteworthy for its collaborative efforts, as it will carry payloads not only from China but also from Pakistan, the European Space Agency (ESA), France, and Italy.
Among the scientific instruments aboard Cheng E6, French equipment will be used to detect radioactive gas on the moon's surface. Additionally, the mission will transport the ESA's Negative Ion Detector and Italy's Valle Brett Radar System to the lunar environment.
One highlight of the mission is the inclusion of Pakistan's CubeSat satellite, which will be placed in lunar orbit. This initiative reflects China's commitment to fostering international cooperation in the realm of space exploration, particularly as it accelerates the International Lunar Research Station project.
The CNSA emphasized that Cheng E6 will serve as a platform for global collaboration, carrying payloads and satellites from four countries. This lunar mission is unique in its focus on the moon's dark side, where it will gather samples from the lunar surface and subsequently return them to Earth.
China's space agency noted that this marks the first instance of collecting samples from the moon's dark side, as previous missions had primarily collected samples from the moon's near surface. The primary objective of Cheng E6 is to acquire lunar samples from various regions to enhance our understanding of the moon's geological history and characteristics.
Following this mission, the CNSA plans to send the Chang'e 7 robotic mission to the moon's south pole. This mission will investigate the presence of ice and study the region's atmosphere and weather conditions. Subsequently, the Chang'e 8 mission will conclude the series of Chang'e missions and potentially establish a research station on the lunar surface.
It's worth noting that in 2013, China's Chang'e-5 mission successfully collected lunar samples and brought them back to Earth, making China the third country, after the United States and Russia, to achieve this milestone in lunar exploration.