China's lunar mission returns to Earth with moon samples

Katie Ramirez
December 18, 2020

Chang'e 5 was launched in November 2020.

"The Chang'e-5 lunar exploration mission has received support and assistance from relevant countries and global organizations including the European Space Agency, Argentina, Namibia, and Pakistan. We will make analysis comprehensively, and try to obtain more useful information with the smallest sample amount".

China assured today that it will share with other countries and world organizations samples of the Moon, collected by its Chang'e-5 probe in recent weeks. In the Soviet Union's unmanned lunar sampling missions, the spacecraft took off from the moon and returned to Earth directly. That has prevented China from taking part in the International Space Station and helped drive Beijing to launch a now-defunct experimental space station and formulate plans to complete a permanent orbiting outpost within the next two years.

The capsule was 3,100 miles (5,000 km) above the southern Atlantic Ocean when it separated from the orbiter.

When it was about 10 kilometres above land, a parachute opened and it landed smoothly, after which a search team recovered it, the space agency said.

According to the CNSA, the recovery team will now carry out the initial processing of the capsule, which landed in Inner Mongolia, and transport it to Beijing.

The capsule is now on its way to Beijing, where it will be opened by scientists who will have fresh lunar samples to analyse. Samples from the US and the Soviet Union missions are more than three billion years old, scientists say.

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For the first time in 44 years, a spacecraft has brought lunar samples to Earth.

When the probe left the Moon two days later, that marked the first time that China had achieved take-off from an extraterrestrial body, it said. Using modern analytical technologies, scientists will be able to unravel the mysteries of volcanic activities and meteorite impacts over the past billion years, the report said. To avoid becoming space junk, the ascender made a controlled descent back to the moon, the CNSA said.

Wang Wenbin said as China's most complex aerospace system project with the largest technological span, Chang'e-5 marks a major step forward for China's aerospace and will contribute to the deepening of mankind's scientific understanding of the origin of the moon and the evolution of the solar system.

"We hope to cooperate with other countries to build the worldwide lunar scientific research station, which could provide a shared platform for lunar scientific exploration and technological experiments", Pei said. China is also building a space station to begin operating as early as 2022. After conducting orbital maneuver twice, the orbiter-returner entered the moon-Earth transfer orbit on December 13.

Wu said the latest flight featured collaboration with the European Space Agency, along with Argentina, Namibia, Pakistan and other nations with which Chinese cooperates on monitoring and communicating with its spacecraft.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also praised the mission's success.

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