Science

China Launches 'Audacious' Mission to Obtain First New Lunar Samples in Decades

China Launches 'Audacious' Mission to Obtain First New Lunar Samples in Decades”

China's space agency is making final preparations to launch a spacecraft to the moon to collect material from the lunar surface.

If the effort is successful, it will be the first time in more than 40 years that any nation has brought back samples from the moon.

Chang'e 5 is without doubt, one of the most hard and challenging endeavours the space-faring nation has so far embarked on. The rocket being used for the current launch failed on a previous launch attempt, but has since performed without a glitch, including launching Chang'e 4.

The rocket to lift Chang'e 5, the latest mission in China's lunar exploration program, is moved to its launch pad in the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on 17 Nov, 2020. The spacecraft is expected to take three days to reach the moon.

China launched the lunar probe at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday to collect and return samples from the moon. Once the rover lands, it will use a robotic drill and scoop to collect about 2 kilograms of lunar soil and dust - the most ever by any robotic mission. To put that context, NASA astronauts brought back approximately 842 pounds of Moon rock and soil between 1969 and 1972. Future ambitions include a permanent space station and putting people back on the moon more than 50 years after the US did.

Steve Durst, founding director of the International Lunar Observatory Association, a nonprofit organization in Hawaii, described the Chang'e 5 mission as "historic, revolutionary and pioneering".

More news: NASA Is About To Land A Historic Rover On Mars

After the materials are collected by the lander, they will be placed in the spacecraft's ascender. The ascender is created to lift off from the moon and link up with a "service module". The supplies would then be shifted to the return capsule to be shipped back to Earth.

The Chang'e 5 is the latest in a series of recent missions to the Moon over the past 15 years by different countries including China, the US, India and Israel. Chinese language journals detailing the Chang'e project technology roadmap state that sampling activities will last around two Earth days. This is because it lacks heating equipment to operate for long periods in the moon's freezing environment.

Joan Johnson-Freese is a space expert at the U.S. Naval War College. She told The Associated Press the technical complexity of Chang'e 5 is "remarkable in many ways". The SpaceX CEO is full of hopes and amazement as he called the Chinese's launch an "exciting" feat and as one of the Asian country's most challenging mission in its aerospace history. The samples will mostly be stored at the Chinese Academy of Sciences National Astronomical Observatory of China in Beijing. He is with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The combination of orbital observations of cratering and accurate dating of samples would both help constrain chronologies on the moon and be applied as a reference for terrestrial bodies across the solar system.

"This is China's first lunar return mission, and I'm very much looking forward to it", Zhang Aicheng, a planetary geologist at Nanjing University, told Sixth Tone.

China's second-generation space tracking ship, Yuanwang 3, has also left port and is getting ready to track the lunar probe, say the countries state media website. China's unmanned Tianwen 1 spacecraft is expected to arrive at Mars around February 2021.



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