Beijing, 1 December 2020 (dpa/MIA) — A Chinese space module aiming to collect rock samples from the moon has landed on the lunar surface, state broadcaster CCTV reports.
A lander from the space probe Chang’e 5, which is named after the Chinese moon goddess, “successfully’ touched down on the surface on Tuesday, CCTV reported, citing a source in the space agency.
The aim of the Chinese mission is to bring rock samples back to Earth for the first time in 44 years.
The only other countries to have achieved that are the United States and the Soviet Union.
Chang’e 5 was launched in late November from the space port in Wenchang on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
Chinese probes have already landed successfully on the moon twice before.
After the samples have been collected, the probe plans return to Earth.
At 8,200 kilograms, the Chang’e 5 is the largest spacecraft in the Chang’e fleet to date and consists of four modules: the orbiter with the return capsule and the lander with the ascent stage.
After being placed on the lunar surface, the lander is supposed to use a long arm to collect lunar rocks and samples from boreholes up to 2 meters deep and stow them in a chamber. This action should take two days.
Then the return journey is due. The plan is to bring around 2 kilograms of material back to Earth. Researchers hope the samples will provide new information about the volcanic activity of the moon.
The US Apollo missions brought back around 380 kilograms of lunar rock. The Soviet Union collected 300 grams.
Space experts regard it as not only a geological mission, but also an important technology test, for example for future manned flights to the moon.
China has an ambitious space program. The plan is not only to send people to the moon again in the medium term – a Chinese probe is also currently on its way to Mars, and the construction of a space station is to begin next year.
Chang’e 5 is the Chinese’s second moon mission in two years.
In January 2019, China was the first with Chang’e 4 to land on the relatively unexplored far side of the moon. A rover was abandoned to continue exploring the surface.
With Chang’e 3, the Chinese landed a probe on the moon for the first time in 2013.
The US brought 12 astronauts to the moon between 1969 and 1972.