Spacecraft lands on moon to bring rocks back to Earth
A Chinese spacecraft landed on the moon Tuesday to bring back lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s, the government announced.
The Chang’e 5 probe “successfully landed” at its planned site, state TV and news agencies reported, citing the China National Space Administration. They didn’t immediately announce any more details.
The lander was launched November 24 from the tropical southern island of Hainan. It is the latest venture by a Chinese space programme that sent its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, has a spacecraft en route to Mars and aims eventually to land a human on the moon.
Plans call for the lander to spend about two days drilling into the lunar surface and collecting two kilograms of rocks and debris. The sample will be lifted into orbit and transferred to a return capsule for the trip to Earth.
If it succeeds, it will be the first time scientists have obtained fresh samples of lunar rocks since a Soviet probe in the 1970s.
US astronauts with NASA’s Apollo space programme brought back 842 pounds of lunar samples from 1969 to 1972.
The Chang’e 5 flight is China’s third successful lunar landing. Its predecessor, Chang’e 4, was the first probe to land on the moon’s little-explored far side.
The latest flight includes collaboration with the European Space Agency, which is helping to monitor the mission.