China just announced its newest lunar lander, Chang’e-5, has landed safely on the moon at 10:25 AM, Beijing time.
The lander launched out of the Wenchang Spacecraft Launchsite one week ago on a mission to bring between two to four kilograms of lunar dirt back to Earth. The target area, Mons Rümker, is considered one of the most interesting sample sites identified on the moon, as it may hold soil as old as 1.3 billion years.
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The spacecraft successfully entered the moon’s orbit five days later, and over the next few days, will drill into the moon’s surface to collect samples. If successful, Chang’e will be the first space mission to retrieve lunar samples in 45 years and from the third country ever to do so, after the US and Soviet Union in the 1960s and ’70s respectively.
Named after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e-5 is just the tip of the country’s lunar program iceberg. In 2013, China successfully launched Chang’e-3 and the Yutu-2 Rover and in 2019, Chang’e-4 made history as the first craft to touch down on the far side of the moon. Soon after, its National Space Administration announced that it planned to send a probe to Mars, followed by manned missions.
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The country’s space program has grand ambitions to explore and document the moon and beyond, but as it inches closer to its goal of an operational moon base, it must first secure the return of Chang’e-5’s cargo.
Cover photo: Still from The Wandering Earth
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