China to launch moon probe, seeking first lunar rock retrieval since 1970s

Pablo Tucker
November 23, 2020

The Chang'e-5 probe, named after the traditional Chinese goddess of the moon, will search to gather materials that may assist scientists perceive extra concerning the moon's origins and formation.

The mission will test the country's ability to remotely acquire samples from space ahead of more complex missions.

If the latest probe is successful, China will become the third country to have retrieved lunar rock, after the United States and the USSR. The Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2 orbiters launched in 2007 and 2010, and Chang'e 3 made the nation's first soft moon landing in December 2013, putting a lander-rover duo down on the lunar near side.

Under the Apollo programme which first put men on the Moon, the U.S. had landed 12 astronauts over six flights from 1969 to 1972.


The Soviet Union deployed three profitable robotic pattern return missions within the 1970s. The last, Luna 24, obtained 170.1 grams (6 ounces) of samples from the 1976 Mare Crimeum, or "Sea of Crys". The other two - a sample collector and an ascent vehicle - will touch down in the Mons Rumker area of the huge Oceanus Procellarum ("Ocean of Storms"), a vast volcanic plain that has been explored by a number of other moon missions, including NASA's Apollo 12 in 1969.

"The Apollo Luna sample region of the Moon, although important for our understanding, was made in a region that includes much less than half of the moon's surface", said James Head, a planetary scientist at Brown University.

Subsequent data from the Orbital-Remote Sensing mission have shown a wider variety of rock types, minerals, and ages than are represented in the Apollo-Luna sample collection.

A heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket topped with the robotic Chang'e 5 lunar sample-return spacecraft rolled out to its pad at Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on Tuesday (Nov. 17).


If that is profitable, the samples will probably be transferred to a return capsule that may return them to Earth. In January 2019, China handled a rocket on the furthest side of the moon - something that had never been finished.

Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct uncrewed exploration in the south polar region.

It is to be developed through the Chang'e-6 7 and 8 missions through 2020 and expanded through the Mending Landing during the 2030s. The samples will generally be put away at the Chinese Academy of Sciences National Astronomical Observatory of China in Beijing.

In July, China on its first independent voyage to Mars introduced unmanned aerial vehicle to another planet. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.


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