China’s next lunar mission, Chang’e-6, will carry a payload from Pakistan
China’s space agency has announced that its next lunar mission, Chang’e-6, scheduled for 2024, will carry a payload from Pakistan as part of their growing cooperation in the space sector. The mission aims to bring back samples from the far side of the moon, which is of significant scientific value.
The Chang’e-6 mission is currently undergoing research and development work as planned, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The launch is expected to take place around 2024, and the mission will land on the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon. This is the largest and oldest impact crater on the moon, and it has never been explored by humans before.
The Chang’e-6 mission will collect lunar samples from different regions and ages, and return them to Earth for analysis. This will help scientists understand the origin and evolution of the moon, as well as its geology and resources.
To date, all 10 lunar sampling missions conducted by humans have taken place on the near side of the moon, which always faces the Earth. The far side of the moon, sometimes also called “the dark side of the moon” because it is not visible from Earth, is largely unknown and mysterious.
To support the communications between the moon’s far side and the Earth, China plans to launch its newly developed relay satellite Queqiao-2, or Magpie Bridge-2, in the first half of 2024. The satellite will orbit around the Earth-moon Lagrange point L2, which is a stable position where the gravitational forces of the Earth and the moon balance each other.
Pakistan to send a CubeSat to the moon
As part of the international cooperation on the Chang’e-6 mission, China will carry payloads and satellite projects from different countries and regions, including France, the European Space Agency, Italy, and Pakistan.
Pakistan will send a CubeSat, which is a miniaturised satellite, to the moon. The CubeSat will perform scientific experiments and observations, and demonstrate Pakistan’s capabilities in the space sector.
Earlier this year, Pakistan also sent seeds to the Chinese space station, Tiangong, for research into environmentally tolerant seeds. The seeds were exposed to microgravity and radiation, and then returned to Earth for comparison with their counterparts.
Pakistan is also exploring the possibility of a formal agreement to join both the Tiangong space station, as well as the more ambitious China-led base on the lunar South Pole, according to a report by the Dawn newspaper last month.
China and Pakistan to deepen their space cooperation
China and Pakistan are close allies and strategic partners, and they have been cooperating in the space sector for decades. China has helped Pakistan launch several satellites, and has also trained Pakistani astronauts.
The two countries have signed several agreements and memoranda of understanding on space cooperation, and have established joint working groups and committees to coordinate their activities.
The collaboration on the Chang’e-6 mission is another milestone in their space partnership, and reflects their mutual trust and support. The two countries have expressed their willingness to share their space achievements and benefits with other developing countries, and to promote the peaceful use of outer space.