Only two countries have collected Moon rocks
November 24, 2020 - China has successfully launched a robotic spacecraft tasked with bringing back samples from the Moon – the first bid by any country to retrieve lunar surface samples since the 1970s.
A Long March-5Y heavy-lift rocket carrying the Chang’e 5 lunar mission blasted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Wenchang in southern China’s Hainan Province, early Tuesday (November 24, 2020).
Chang’e 5 -- named after the Chinese moon goddess -- is the country’s boldest lunar mission to date. If successful, it would be a significant advance for China’s space programme and could pave the way for bringing samples back from Mars or even a crewed lunar mission.
Under President Xi Jinping, China’s plans for a “space dream”, as he calls it, have been put into overdrive, as the superpower strives to catch up with the U.S. and Russia.
Since 2007, the China National Space Administration launched four successful Chang’e lunar missions. Still, it was dealt a setback in 2017 when the Long March-5 Y2 failed during launch on a mission to send communication satellites into orbit. The failure forced the postponement of the launch of Chang’e-5, to collect moon samples in the second half of 2017.
Another robot, the Chang’e-4, landed on the dark side of the Moon in January 2019 -- a historic first.
Chang’e 5’s time on the Moon will be short and sweet. It can only stay one lunar day -- about 14 Earth days -- because it lacks the radioisotope heating units to withstand the Moon’s freezing nights.
The lander will drill for materials in the Mons Rümker region of Oceanus Procellarum. A robotic arm will transfer two to four kilograms of samples to what’s called an ascender, which will lift off from the Moon and dock with the service capsule. The materials are due to be returned to Earth in mid-December.