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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 re-entry spacecraft to transfer the load. The re-entry 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 eight-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 re-entry part of the system is expected to parachute onto the Inner Mongolian desert on June 25.

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