Nobody has collected rocks from the dark side of the Moon.

Blast Off

China literally shot for the Moon on Friday in a historic mission to collect and bring back samples from the mysterious dark side of the Moon, the Washington Post reports, which would be the first for any nation if successful.

China's Chang'e-6 probe, blasted into space by an uncrewed Long March 5 rocket, is set to arrive at the Moon in four days time and embark on a 53-day mission, WaPo reports.

The probe is set to land in a vast crater on the dark side of the Moon called the South Pole-Aitken Basin, where it'll drill into the ground and collect more than four pounds of rocks and dust, storing it on board for safe passage.

When the mission is complete, the probe will blast a container back into orbit, where it'll be collected by a waiting spacecraft and flown back to Earth, touching down somewhere in Inner Mongolia.

Space Race

Samples have only been collected from the near side of the Moon, so this would be a historic first.

"Chang’e-6 aims to conduct systematic and long-term research on the far side of the moon so that we can analyze the structure, physical properties and composition of lunar soil, and try to update our scientific data about the moon," the mission's deputy chief designer Wang Qiong told CCTV, as reported by WaPo.

Analyzing samples from the dark far side would give scientists a better understanding of the Moon's formation and hopefully answer a longrunning question: why does the dark side differ from the near side that faces us? The dark side has mountains and craters — far more craggy in landscape than the side that always faces the Earth.

The mission is also important because it's another sign of China's scientific ambitions. In 2013, China sent a rover called Yutu to the Moon, becoming the country's first successful landing on the lunar surface. In 2020, China launched a lander to the Moon again, and this time it came back with samples from the near side of the Earth's natural satellite.

In several years, BBC reports, China aims to have astronauts on the Moon — in a bid to play catch up with America, which is itself racing to land astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2026.

More on the Moon: China Releases CGI Video of Moon Base and It Contains Something Very Strange

Share This Article