China Cracks Open First Ever Sample From Moon’s Far Side

Thicker and Stickier

After boldly going to the Moon's far side, China is now in possession of more than four pounds of unprecedented lunar samples — the first ever collected in human history from that mysterious region.

The state-run China Daily newspaper reports that samples from the Chang'e 6 robotic lunar lander, which touched down back on Earth last week, brought back 1.953 kilograms (or roughly 4.3 pounds) from the side of the Moon that permanently faces away from our planet — and already, they're proving to be stranger than expected.

Ge Ping, a senior space official overseeing China's lunar programs, told reporters after an unveiling ceremony that the samples appear to be "thicker and stickier" than ones collected from the Moon's near side. He added that they contain some "lumps."

While the Chang'e 6 mission was the first ever to collect samples from the Moon's far side — sometimes referred to as its "dark" side because we never see it from the Earth, though the Sun does indeed shine upon it — it wasn't the first time a human craft has breached its mysterious territory.

That distinction also belongs to China, which in 2019 became the first country in the world to land on the Moon's mountainous far side with its Chang'e 4 rover mission. With the return of these groundbreaking samples, the country is making history yet again.

Analysis Pending

In another press statement quoted by the South China Morning Post, the deputy designer of the China National Space Administration mission to the far side of the Moon said that although the samples have yet to be analyzed, they "may have very different mineral chemical compositions" than previous samples collected before.

"In other words," said the official, Li Chunlai, "we only know about half of the moon from the samples collected in the past."

Now that the samples are back on terra firma, CNSA officials say scientists in China should be able to study them by the year's end. After that, China plans to open the samples up to the international community.

American researchers, however, likely won't be included once the international community gets access to the four pounds of unexplored Moon rocks, due to a 2011 law passed in the United States barring any government funding for direct cooperation with China.

More on Moon missions: China Finds Something Strange in Sample Retrieved From Moon