China successfully launched an unmarried spacecraft on a mission to discover parts of the moon early Tuesday morning to become the third nation to collect rocks and debris from lunar satellites.
Four modules of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft, named after the ancient Chinese moon goddess, exploded over a giant Long March-5Y rocket from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in Henan Province, southern province.
The ambitious mission spacecraft plans to land in an area called Oceans Procelararam and will try to collect lunar material with a drill of about 2 kg of rock and soil and a 7-foot surface with its robotic arm. The specimen will then be transferred to the rider.
The materials will then be transferred to the return capsule to be thrown back into the earth. The information that the samples can provide could help scientists understand more about the origin, structure and solar system of the moon.
The spacecraft will reach the surface in about three days and stay there until the end of a lunar day, which is about 14 Earth days, as it lacks the radioisotope heating units needed to prevent lunar nights.
If successful, China will only bring back lunar samples, join the United States and the former Soviet Union, and be the first country in more than 40 years.
The mission also reflects China’s ambition in space technology and its efforts to promote its space program, with the hope that a crew space station of its own will be built by 2022 and eventually send people to the moon.
The goal of the Chang 5 and future lunar missions is “to provide better technical support for future scientific and exploration activities,” the mission’s spokesman and deputy director of the Chinese National Space Administration’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center told reporters at a briefing on Monday.
“Scientific demand and technological and economic conditions will determine whether China decides to send a crew mission to the moon,” Mr Pei said.
“I think in the future the exploration activities on the moon will probably be conducted in a human-machine combination,” he said.
As part of its space effort, the country successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon in 2012, becoming the first country to do so.
In July of this year, China became one of three countries launching a mission to Mars to search for signs of water on the Red Planet. According to the CNSA, the Tianwen 1 spacecraft is on its way to Mars in February.
Additional reporting by the agency