The Chinese probe Chang’e 5 has finished its maneuvers to collect and store samples from the lunar surface, reported today the National Space Administration of China (ANEC).
“At 10:00 p.m. on December 2 (14:00 GMT), after 19 hours of work on the lunar surface, Chang’e 5 successfully concluded the collection of samples and they were packed and stored as planned,” the ANEC said in a statement posted on its website.
The samples were collected in two different ways: on the surface of the Moon, thanks to a robotic arm, and underground, through a drill that drilled two meters into the satellite to obtain varied samples that could date from much earlier periods.
The collected material was stored after a vacuum sealed container to “ensure that it is not affected by external conditions during the return to Earth,” the text noted.
Chang’e 5 is expected to return to Earth in the next few hours, and is scheduled to land in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia later this month.
This Tuesday, the probe successfully landed in an area north of Mons Rümker, in the Oceanus Procellarum, on the visible side of the Moon, an area not visited to date by astronauts or unmanned space missions.
Third country to get moon rock
If completed successfully, the mission would make China the third country capable of collecting lunar samples after previously the United States and the former Soviet Union did in the 1970s.
Chang’e 5 was launched on November 24 by a Long March-5 rocket, which already successfully carried China’s first mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, into space on July 23, and whose arrival on the planet Red is forecast for next May.
For its part, the Chang’e program (named in honor of a goddess who, according to Chinese mythology, lives on the Moon) began with the launch of a first orbital probe in 2007.
The Asian country made its first moon landing in 2013 and, in January 2019, it managed to land the Chang’e-4 probe on its far side – where it still remains – a milestone never achieved before in the history of lunar exploration.
The ultimate goal of the program is a manned mission to the Moon and the construction of a scientific base on the satellite, although no date has been set for it.