China’s Chang’e 6 Launch Suspected to Include Secret Moon Robot

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on May 8, 2024 16:06
China's Chang'e 6 Launch Suspected To Include Secret Moon Robot

New images suggest that China's Chang'e 6 mission to the Moon, which launched last week, is carrying an unidentified rover to the lunar far side.

New Spacecraft Attached to China's Chang'e 6 Lander Raises Questions

Observers have discovered a bizarre new spacecraft attached to the side of a Chang'e 6 lander set to touch down on the Moon next month.

On Friday, China's space agency successfully launched its Chang'e 6 mission payload aboard an autonomous Long March 5 rocket, with the goal of becoming the first nation to return rock samples from the lunar far side.

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The mission's primary payload is anticipated to land in a crater near the Moon's south pole in early June, where a lander will collect 2 kg of rocks and bring them to Earth in a return module.

China previously stated that the spacecraft is carrying payloads from France, Sweden, Italy, and Pakistan to the Moon.

However, new photographs reveal an unannounced little gray object with wheels fastened to the lander's side, which appears to have launched alongside the expedition.

“That looks like a previously undisclosed mini rover on the side of the Chang'e-6 lander,” space reporter Andrew Jones, who meticulously tracks China's space missions, commented on X.

While the mystery rover's primary function is unknown, a statement from the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, which donated mission components, indicates that the hidden robot has an infrared imaging spectrometer.

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Concerns Mount Over China's Space Program Secrecy

This is probably not the first time a Chinese expedition to the Moon has carried a hidden payload.

In 2022, an out-of-control rocket booster fell onto the Moon, leaving a strange crater, and is widely suspected of carrying a hidden payload.

While the Chinese government has denied that the rocket was their own, an analysis of the trajectory and light from the object “shows conclusively” that it was a “Long March 3C rocket body (R/B)” from China's Chang'e 5-T1 mission.

Researchers from the University of Arizona in the United States believe that the rocket booster had a substantial mass on top, which balanced the two engines on the bottom.

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NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has previously expressed worries about the secrecy surrounding China's space programmes.

“China has made extraordinary strides, especially in the last 10 years, but they are very, very secretive,” he explained to lawmakers at Capitol Hill earlier this year.

“We believe that a lot of their so-called civilian space programme is a military programme. And I think, in effect, we are in a race,” Mr Nelson said, urging the US to “not let down our guard”.

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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