China Launches Historic Mission To Bring Back Rocks From The Moon

Hannah Smith

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China Launches Historic Mission To Bring Back Rocks From The MoonPA Images

A robotic spacecraft launched today by China is attempting to become the first in 50 years to collect rock samples from the Moon.

The Chang’e-5 mission launched aboard the country’s largest rocket – the Long March-5 – from Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Hainan province early Tuesday morning, November 28, and is due to land on the moon in eight days.

The spacecraft, which is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, is set to collect lunar material to bring back to scientists on Earth. If successful, China would become the third country ever to do so, behind Russia and the United States, and the first since 1970 to successfully retrieve samples from the Moon’s surface.

Long March-5 lift offPA Images

The mission is also seen as a test of China’s unmanned robotic space technology ahead of more complex missions in the future.

Once in the Moon’s orbit, the Chang’e-5 spacecraft is set to deploy a lunar lander and lunar ascender to the Moon’s surface. The lander will drill into the surface, allowing a robot arm to collect rock and soil samples and transfer them to the ascender. Once that stage of the mission is complete, the ascender will lift off the Moon to dock with an orbiting module, and transfer the samples to a capsule waiting to return to Earth.

Pei Zhaoyu, director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Centre at the China National Space Administration, said of the mission, as per The Guardian:

The biggest challenges… are the sampling work on the lunar surface, takeoff from the lunar surface, rendezvous and docking in the lunar orbit, as well as high-speed re-entry to Earth.

Lunar surfaceNASA

The module is set to land in the Mons Rumker region – a 70km raised area of the moon – that was formed by volcanic activity an estimated 1-2 billion years ago.

Matt Siegler, a research scientist at the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute, told Reuters:

That is very young for the Moon – most of our samples are 3.5 billion years old or more.

We want to find out what is special about these regions and why they remained warm longer than the rest of the Moon.

A spokesperson for the mission said the probe will be on the Moon’s surface for two days, and the return capsule will land back on Earth in China’s Inner Mongolia region in 23 days’ time.

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Topics: Technology, China, Now, Science, Space, Tech

Hannah Smith
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