China: Chang'e 5's space probe collects moon samples
China’s Chang’e 5 has touched down back on Earth, landing in the Siziwang district of the Inner Mongolia region in the early hours of December 17. The mission marks a moments occasion for China, as it makes it only the third country to successfully bring samples back from the Moon, after only the USA and the former USSR.
It is also the first time lunar samples have landed back on Earth for the first time since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 robot probe in 1976.
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) reported that the capsule carrying the samples separated from the rocket as it neared Earth.
As it did so, it bounced off of Earth’s atmosphere – a calculated move which was designed to slow down the pace of the lander.
The capsule is currently on its way to Beijing, where it will be opened by scientists who will have fresh lunar samples to analyse.
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These lunar samples, of which there are about two kilograms worth, could help experts unravel the mysteries of the solar system, and in particular this history of Earth.
The Chang’e 5 reached the Moon just two days after launching aboard a Long March 5 on November 23.
Following several days in orbit around the Moon, Chang’e 5 separated from the rocket, where it began its own orbit.
The probe then landed near a volcanic feature in the northwest of the Moon, known as Mons Rümker, where it drilled two metres beneath the surface to collect the samples.
Now, authorities in China have confirmed the entire mission was a success after the smooth landing back on Earth.
The CNSA said: “As our nation’s most complex and technically groundbreaking space mission, Chang’e 5 has achieved multiple technical breakthroughs and represents a landmark achievement.”
While China had decided to keep the launch largely secretively, experts from the country said they hope to share their findings.
Pei Zhaoyu, a deputy director at the CNSA, said: “We hope to cooperate with other countries to build the international lunar scientific research station, which could provide a shared platform for lunar scientific exploration and technological experiments.”
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China is increasingly becoming a major player in the space industry.
Earlier this year, the country launched its Tianwen-1, which translates to ‘the quest for heavenly truth’, mission to Mars, which is currently en-route.
China made history last year when it’s Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover becomes the first to explore the Moon’s far side.
But the country’s extraterrestrial ambitions will not end there.
China will begin work on a Moon-base within the next decade to ready for future manned missions to the Red Planet.
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