China’s Long March-5 rocket has been transported into launching position, and will take off early next week. The rocket was transported by tractor from its hangar to the launch site in Wenchang and is part of the Chang’e 5 missions. According to China, a lander will be placed on the Moon which will drill two metres beneath the surface.
These samples will then be returned to Earth, giving scientists the opportunity to study lunar soils for the first time since the 1970s when the US and the then Soviet Union returned samples.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said: “This is currently one of our country’s most complicated and multifaceted space missions.”
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 its Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover becomes the first to explore of the Moon’s far side.
But the country’s extraterrestrial ambitions will not end there.
China will begin work on a moonbase within the next decade to ready for future manned missions to the Red Planet.
And while China is making great strides in its Moon missions, NASA has suffered a setback.
NASA had been planning to return humans to the Moon by 2024, but a recent report from the agency’s office of inspector general (OIG) revealed that is “unlikely”.
The OIG report said it “will be hard-pressed” in “achieving any date close to this ambitious goal”.
Part of the NASA mission will see it build a ‘Gateway’ – a laboratory which will orbit the Moon, much like the International Space Station (ISS) does around Earth.
However, the OIG report said the space agency is well behind schedule in this regard.
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The report said: “Gateway’s initial elements, scheduled to launch together in early 2024, consist of the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), which powers and propels the spacecraft in orbit, and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), which provides a docking location for the Orion capsule and living and working spaces for crew members.
“To date, NASA has spent over half a billion dollars and almost three years of design work on the PPE and HALO.”
It continued: “The development schedules for both the PPE and HALO have been negatively impacted by the Agency’s still-evolving Gateway requirements, including NASA’s decision to co-manifest and launch the two elements on the same commercial rocket rather than separately as initially intended.
“Given this decision, the PPE is likely to launch at least 17 months behind its original date of December 2022 while HALO has two to five months of schedule risk, potentially moving its launch readiness date further into 2024.”
While the report added the mission could be achieved with “strong, consistent, sustained leadership from the president… as well as stable and timely funding” it said there are likely to be further unexpected costs.
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