China unveils secret rover on the far side of the Moon

China’s recent lunar mission has attracted the attention of the global space community with the reveal of a secret rover attached to a lander planned to land on the far side of the Moon next month.

Chang’e 6 on its way to the far side of the Moon

China has already demonstrated its expertise in lunar exploration with the Chang’e 4 mission, which saw the deployment of rover Yutu-2 on the far side of the Moon in 2019. The latter has since made important discoveries, including the presence of small glass spheres on the lunar surface. In 2020, the Chang’e 5 mission succeeded in bringing back the first lunar samples to Earth since the end of the Apollo era.

Now, China aims to repeat this feat under the mission Chang’e 6but on the hidden side of the Moon, which has never been done before. The success of this project would mark a significant step forward in space exploration.

Besides the primary objectives, Chang’e 6 also carries payloads from France, Sweden, Italy and Pakistan to the Moon, but the precise detail remains confidential.

The Yutu 2 rover on the far side of the Moon. Credits: CNSA/CLEP

A mysterious rover

Elsewhere, an unexpected revelation came in the form of new photos released by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST). They show a small gray rover attached to the side of the lander. Observers immediately speculated on the function of this robot, whose Exact mission remains unclear for now.

A statement from the Shanghai Ceramics Institute, a supplier of components for the mission, revealed that the rover has an infrared imaging spectrometer, although its specific purpose remains unclear. Due to its size and lunar conditions, its mission is likely to be short-lived.

This revelation once again highlights China’s continued commitment to space exploration and its ability to keep secrets in a field where transparency is often required. This is indeed not the first time that China has had surprises with undisclosed payloads. During the Tianwen-1 mission to Mars in 2021, the country notably deployed several spacecraft which also attracted the attention of the international community due to their secret nature.

Among them were mini cameras specially designed for taking selfies on or around the Red Planet. This initiative was seen as a innovative and fun way to document the mission while capturing unique images of Mars. Space selfies, although often considered entertainment, do indeed provide valuable visual perspectives for scientists and space exploration enthusiasts.

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