Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies, revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.

I agree

European experiments hitch lift on China's moon rocket

Natalie Carney in Toulouse, France

 , Updated 01:19, 04-May-2024
Europe;Toulouse, France

As French Planetary Scientist Pierre-Yves Meslin arrives in China's Southern Hainan Province, he feels a growing sense of anxiety, "realizing that something out of our scale will happen soon."

He is in the country for the launch of China's latest space adventure to the farthest reaches of the moon, it's far side, which is not visible from Earth. And he's got a lot riding on the mission.


Meslin is the principal scientist behind one of the three European-developed research instruments aboard the mission's spacecraft, the Chang'e 6. His invention, The Detection of Outgassing Radon or DORN, will study the dynamic properties of the lunar atmosphere and soil by measuring the radioactive gas Radon produced in lunar rocks.

The DORN is the first ever French instrument to be deployed to the surface of the moon and it's thanks to successful international cooperation, says Meslin.

"Europe does not have the capacity to land on the moon by itself, so as an European scientist we rely on international partners to deploy our instruments to the surface of the moon."



INNRI, or Instrument for Landing - Roving Laser Retroreflector investigations, developed by Italy's National Institute for Nuclear Physics, is another European payload being taken to the moon.

Simone Dell'Agnello is the Executive Technologist at the institute in Frascati, just south of the Italian capitol Rome and describes INNRI as "a device that is needed in order to find the accurate position of the lander. There is a laser orbiting the moon and when it is in the proximity of the Chang'e lander and this device, it will shoot a laser beam which will be retro-reflected in the same direction it came from."


The most common 'deepfakes' and how to spot them

Mum and son nominated for Golden Chopsticks award

This will allow scientists to accurately calculate the active position of the Chang'e 6 lander, as well as add to a network of other reflectors already in space to establish a metric network of positions and distances on the far side of the moon.

Dell'Agnello says Italy's partnership with China in the area of space discovery has been "very fruitful and interesting." Collaborating is important because "space is a strategic sector. The space economy is growing very fast. You have to develop very advanced technologies and strategies to do very difficult things and so that pushes the boundaries of knowledge".

Scientists from across Europe have developed technology that China will take to the dark side of the moon. /Natalie Carney/CGTN Europe
Scientists from across Europe have developed technology that China will take to the dark side of the moon. /Natalie Carney/CGTN Europe

Scientists from across Europe have developed technology that China will take to the dark side of the moon. /Natalie Carney/CGTN Europe


The Swedish Institute of Space Physics has built another scientific instrument that is also onboard the Chang'e 6 spacecraft, called Negative Ions on the Lunar Surface or NILS. This device will help scientists better understand negative ions emitted from the lunar surface as a result of interaction with solarwinds.

Neil Melville with the European Space Agency (ESA) is the Technical Officer and Technical Manager of NILS.

"Its a very small particle detector," he shares with CGTN.  "After landing, there is a small door that will open on the side to expose the sensor. And then, the idea is, solar wind impacts on the surface of the moon and kicks up all sorts of products, including, hopefully negative ions that should enter the detector through that small door and the data from these detection will be sent via the spacecraft back to us in mission control."

International cooperation in space and on earth 

"Everyone has been very helpful," smiles Melville. "We know we are all there for the same scientific purpose. Everyone is excited to collaborate together so its been a very cooperative spirit to try and find the way forward to make sure this can work."

The project manager for the DORN, King Wah Wong adds that, "having an instrument that we developed and going to the far side of the moon is really exciting for us. We are going to be a part of a mission that is a real technological feat, so its a great honour to be a part of it."

Combining the experience and expertise of European scientific know-how with successful Chinese space infrastructure, considerably enhances the discovery and study of the wide, vast, unknowns of outer space.

It also helps promote positive relations back on earth says Meslin, "I think we have established a true relationship of trust and friendship on the two sides."

European experiments hitch lift on China's moon rocket

Subscribe to Storyboard: A weekly newsletter bringing you the best of CGTN every Friday

Search Trends