Chinese ‘Ascender’ Leaves Moon


China’s Chang’e-6 ascender module blasted off from the surface of the moon late Monday after receiving a container of rocks and soil from the landing module at its landing spot near the moon’s south pole. The ascender went into a lunar orbit and will rendezvous with a reentry spacecraft to transfer the load. The reentry vehicle will head back to Earth later this month. The lander/ascender spent less than two days on the moon and it’s been about a month since the whole system launched on what the Chinese said was a 53-day mission.

Besides showing the West that it can pull off a complicated mission like this, the effort will possibly be a scientific bonanza. The Chang’e-6 landed in an 8-mile-deep crater that was created more than four billion years ago. It’s theorized that the impact uncovered materials from deep within the moon and if some of those got into the container then they should reveal information about the origin of the moon. It’s also speculated there might be ice there that could be a fundamental resource for a future base camp. The reentry part of the system is expected to parachute onto the Inner Mongolian desert on June 25.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. We’ve had rocks from the Moon before. Why should these reveal anything wildly different?

  2. The sample is from Farside and from near the pole. All previous samples were from equatorial regions on Nearside. The human race might just actually learn something new.
    Next stupid comment?

      • And, I’m positively sure, mborgelt isn’t at all, a cosmologist. His comment doesn’t reveal any cosmology phraseology.

    • We leaned that China posseses extraordinary expertise in heavy lift rockets and precision guidance. That is an important political step in the coming years. That’s the science at work here, that’s how it will affect the human race.

    • Winlow’s comment was a legitimate question. There is no place for arrogant rudeness in scientific inquiry.

      • Not in “scientific inquiry”, per se. But is AvWeb really the first place you would go for that? And yes, a brief suggestion to search Wikipedia for “Selenography” would have sufficed.

        Not to defend the directness of mbrgelt’s gratuitous response, but the first posting represented a stunning, let’s say “lack of study” of earth science or geology (or even geography), forget cosmology. Or even travel on this planet.

        Such a lack of knowledge would be understandable in a grammar school class, but it is somewhat novel here, such that the posting looks for all the world like the work of a troll.

        Lord knows, we have a surfeit of those here, especially the ones who regularly take any opportunity to insert a gratuitous American political reference into every topic discussed.

        • Aviatrexx, Politics WAS the primary reason people went to the moon, it was a space race. Picking up rocks was not part of NASA’s goal as set out by Kennedy, it was a “well as long was we are landing we might as well pick up some rocks for testing”.

    • For the sake of argument if the Chinese actually do find something where, “The human race might just actually learn something new” do you think the Chinese are going to spill the beans?

    • m@winlow is right. Why be a dick about this? Pretty straightforward question. Be nice, please.

  3. “Chang’e-6 is set to collect approximately 2 kilograms of lunar samples by shoveling and drilling. The probe will also conduct scientific investigations within the designated landing zone situated in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.” Hinhuanet News

    If Chang’e-6’s ascender returns lunar rocks and soil, it could be a game-changer for lunar science, rewriting what we know about the Moon’s history. Especially with samples from the far side and poles, these rocks could hold ancient secrets, as I understand this.

    • The original landers some 50 years were not about lunar science; why believe this one is?

      • You should review Apollo 15, 16 and 17. All were highly scientific-oriented missions. Harrison Schmitt, geologist and Apollo 17 lunar module pilot would most certainly disagree with your historical interpretation.

  4. The moon could not have existed four billion years ago, as the planets could not have either. Even one million years ago the gravitational pull of the Sun would be strong enough (more than it is now) to cause the planets to spiral into the Sun. Once the planets START to tighten their orbit because of stronger gravitational pull of the Sun, the acceleration closer to the Sun becomes exponential. That is why the Earth is now extremely slowly spiraling OUT of orbit, leaving orbit less than 1 million years from now, because of the weakening gravitational pull of the Sun. The Sun is losing mass (corresponding loss of gravity) at the rate of around half a million TONS per SECOND. How many seconds are in one million years?

    • Yes all wrong… Earth / Sun distance only increasing about 1 cm per year due to decrease in Suns mass (5 million tons/second), thats 10 Kilometers in a million years. How far are we away from the SUN?

      • I don’t do kilometers because I’m a stubborn America. Yet, not uneducated. We are about 93,000,000 miles from the sun.

          • There are two types of countries: Those that use the metric system…and those that have put a man on the moon.🙄

          • In America, we prefer our measurements like our coffee: confusingly complex and served with a side of stubborn independence. Who needs kilometers when you can have ‘about 10 football fields’?

    • Please stop posting fake statements regarding planetary and star ages. There’s enough garbage floating out there such as flat earth. No wonder China is advancing beyond us in technology advancements in the sciences and engineering.

  5. We gave them our technology. We sent our manufacturing to them and now they are a tech powerhouse. I hope we keep our edge.

    • And they hold most of the debt the US government has, I’m sure they are using those interest payments to pay for this!

  6. Is someone privy to how the US shared the rocks with the rest of the world after they were brought home? Seems like China would like to do their own science and not be reliant on others.

    • NASA sent lunar samples to labs as well as museums all over the world. Wonder if China will do the same.

  7. Congratulations to the team that designed built and executed this mission.
    The original moon mission planned was manned using Soviet technology. This is obviously home grown and quite sophisticated.

    The data from the bottom of A very old crater wil be of interest to planetary science. This will bring a much better understanding of the moons composition at depth leading to a better understanding of it formation.

  8. I’m pulling for China. Without the Chinese almost all the technology in my house would disappear.

  9. They say gravity is instantaneous and even the smallest of objects reaches to the edge of the universe. Currently they say the edge of the universe is at 46.5 billion light years and someday the universe will quit expanding and start to collapse once again. So in another fifty or sixty billion years or more will there be another “BIG BANG” and we start all over again? Are we still on our first BIG BANG or perhaps this is the two hundred thousandth BIG BANG?

    • The “Big Crunch” as it was nicknamed, was one theory of the universe when most of us were kids. But, with better telescopes and highly sophisticated satellites, scientists discovered that the universe is actually expanding at an ever increasing rate, thus growing larger. The current theory as to why is named “dark energy”, an unseen force that is supposedly causing the acceleration. Neither dark energy, nor dark matter, its invisible companion, have ever been directly observed, so there is no definitive proof they actually exist. As such, some scientists still maintain that the expansion may eventually stop and possibly even reverse. Not really important to us since either ending will not occur for tens of billions of years.

    • Interesting that the age of the universe is estimated to be roughly 14 billion years, but the size of the universe is almost 50 billion years. If it all started at a single point in the big bang, obviously there is lots that we still don’t know.

  10. Space and time: same thing.
    It’s like when you wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if you are really living this life or you belong in another universe.

  11. Do any of you remember that Bill Clinton ordered the Loral Corp. and the Hughes Corp. to help the Chinese with their rocket guidance systems to get their communications satellites in orbit?

  12. I did not remember but apparently it was part of a deal to get China WTO membership, and so I can buy my shorts for half price. Clinton preesided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history.

    • Those round things upon which your automobile rolls along on are based upon on a design that someone from 5000 years ago would find awfully familiar.

      The Chinese may have found that reinvent something that already works would be foolish.

  13. Much hard work and diligence made this happen. BTW, I think there is a difference between chronological age and “light years”!

  14. Interesting progression of comments and banter.
    My respect for most of the members here is immense. It is rare to find a refuge of highly intelligent community members.
    Kudos to Russ for keeping random Richards in check. Respect to you, sir.
    For the few who make it this far into the comments, here is both an eye-opening and scary explanation of why the Chinese and others might be interested in harvesting rocks from that part of the moon…
    Look up David Adair’s FB interview where he describes the University of Wisconsin’s discovery of Helium 3 in moon rocks. It enables clean, nuclear fusion.
    His comments are mind-blowing. Totally.