Are those wheels?

Mini Surprise

China is set to become the first country to ever return samples from the far side of the Moon.

Apart from collecting rocks and dust, the mission — dubbed Chang’e-6 — is carrying an even more interesting piece of equipment: a previously undisclosed lunar rover, SpaceNews reports.

Eagle-eyed space reporter Andrew Jones spotted what appears to be a “mini rover” attached to the side of the lander in images shared by the China Academy of Space Technology.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about what China intends to do with the four-wheeled contraption or how the lander will lower it down to the Moon’s surface. But given it’s unlikely to survive a lunar night, its lifespan will likely be quite short.

It’s nonetheless an intriguing new development given the wealth of knowledge there still is to glean from the Moon’s much less-studied and far more rugged side.

Pizza Pie

The news comes amid several other countries softly landing on the Moon over the last year alone, including Japan and India. Sticking the landing, however, has proven extremely difficult, with Japan’s lander faceplanting.

China, however, has successfully delivered three robotic landers to the lunar surface in just over a decade. In early 2019, the country’s Chang’e-4 lunar probe became the first human-made spacecraft to touch down on the far side of the Moon.

Its upcoming Chang’e-6 mission, which follows up a 2020 nearside sample return mission, will explore the southern edge of the Apollo Basin, an enormous impact crater on the far side of the Moon, in the upcoming months.

The mission is already well underway, with the spacecraft entering lunar orbit early Wednesday morning.

The plan is to bring back over four pounds of samples, potentially allowing scientists to get an unprecedented look at our closest neighbor’s far side.

A small rover could take the mission even further, potentially laying the groundwork for future missions still to come.

More on China’s Moon mission: China Launches Spacecraft to Collect First-Ever Samples From Moon’s Far Side


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