China’s Chang’e-5 moon mission probe has landed successfully on the lunar surface. The probe will be digging up the lunar surface in the next couple of days to collect samples of dust and rocks to be brought back for analysis on Earth. According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the probe blasted into space on November 24 and landed on the lunar surface at 11 pm (Beijing time) on December 1.
When the Chang’e-5 spacecraft reached 200 kilometers above the surface of the moon, it remained in orbit while its lander-and-ascender parts detached itself for the descent to the surface of the moon. The part of the moon where the probe landed is called Oceanus Procellarum, and it will be exploring the Mons Rumker volcanic region.
The Chang’e-5 will dig up and return about 2kg of lunar samples to Earth. It will gather surface dust, and also drill 2 meters deep into the soil to scoop up inside soil for return to Earth. The probe is made up of a lander, ascender, orbiter, and returner; and there are also a camera, spectrometer, radar, scoop, and drill. After gathering the required samples, the probe will join with the orbiting spacecraft 200 km above the lunar surface for the return trip to our world.
During the touchdown, the probe recorded videos of its landing and transmitted these back to analysts in China. The camera also caught a shadow of the probe’s landers as they descended to the surface of the moon.
The first country to achieve the feat was the United States, followed by the USSR, and then China. The last time any country landed a probe to the lunar surface was 44 years ago. However, this is the third time that China will successfully land a spacecraft on the moon. China sent Chang’e-3 in 2013 and Chang’e-4 in 2019 and then Chang’e-5 in 2020. When the orbiter returns the collected lunar samples back to Earth, the spacecraft is expected to touch the ground at Inner Mongolia in North China.
NASA congratulated China on successfully landing the lunar spacecraft, and the US space agency’s top science official, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, expressed hopes that the Chinese government will share the lunar samples they obtained with the international research community so that the entire world can benefit from further knowledge of the moon.
“When the samples collected on the Moon are returned to Earth, we hope everyone will benefit from being able to study this precious cargo that could advance the international science community,” Zurbuchen tweeted.
The lunar samples will enable scientists to understand the age of the moon and geological activities on the lunar surface.