China Launching Space Mission to Collect Moon Rocks in 40 Years

China: Bringing Lunar Rocks

An unmanned spacecraft is planned by China for launch this week to the moon to bring back moon rocks which is the first attempt to retrieve samples by any nation since the 1970s from Earth’s natural satellite.

The spacecraft will seek to collect material that can help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation which is named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, Chang’e-5 probe. This mission will be a starter for a more complex mission to come ahead as it will test China’s ability to remotely acquire samples from space.

Third Nation to do so

China will join the United States and the Soviet Union if it is successful to retrieve lunar samples becoming the third nation to do so. As Luna 2 was crash-landed by the Soviet Union on the moon in 1959 which is the first human-made object to reach another celestial body including a few countries including Japan and India who launched moon missions.

Mare Crisium, or "Sea of Crises"
Mare Crisium, or “Sea of Crises”

From 1969 to 1972 under the Apollo program put men on the moon by landing 12 astronauts over six flights by the United States to become the first to do so by also bringing back rock and soil of 842 pounds (382 kg).

In the 1970s, three successful robotic sample return missions were deployed by the Soviet Union among which was the Luna 24, the last, managing to retrieve 170.1 grams of the sample from Mare Crisium, or “Sea of Crises” in 1976.

Spotting of New probe

The new lunar probe Chang’e-5 on the top of the Long March-5 rocket was seen on the launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan, China on November 17. With the launch scheduled for China’s probe in coming days will attempt collection of 4.5 pounds (2 kg) of the sample from the Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms” which is the unvisited area in a massive lava plain.

James Head, who is a planetary scientist at Brown University said that the Apollo-Luna sample zone of the moon was given task in an area that comprises far less than half the lunar surface while being important to our understanding.

He said that a wider diversity of rock types, mineralogies, and ages was shown by subsequent data from orbital remote sensing missions that were represented in the Apollo-Luna sample collections.

Questions like how long the moon endured volcanically active in its interior and when its magnetic field dissipated which were key to protecting any form of life from the sun’s radiation can be answered by the Chang’e-5 mission. 

What is the mission?

Chang'e-5 probe
China : Chang’e-5 probe

The probe will aim to deploy a pair of vehicles onto the surface after entering the moon’s orbit. A lander will drill into the ground and then the soil and rock samples will be transferred to an ascender that will lift off and dock with an orbiting module.

After succeeding in this, to return these samples to the earth, they will be transferred to a return capsule. In 2013 China made its first lunar landing. The Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon in January 2019, the first by any nation’s space probe.

China is planning to establish a robotic base station in the South Polar Region to conduct unmanned exploration. It is planned to be developed through the Chang’e-6 7 and 8 missions through the 2020s and expanded through the 2030s ahead of manned landings.

In July, China floated an unmanned probe to Mars, which is its first independent mission to another planet. China plans to retrieve samples by 2030 from Mars, which may be the year we go to Mars.

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