BEIJING (AP) – For the first time in 45 years, a Chinese probe will orbit the moon on Monday as it prepares to return samples of the lunar surface to Earth.
On Sunday, after the robot docked with the spacecraft, a container containing 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of samples was handed over to the ascending module of the Chang 5 spacecraft.
The orbiter, a reindeer, orbits the moon another week, waiting for a narrow time window to return 383,000 kilometers (238,000 miles) to Earth in three days. It will first “bounce” to slow down from the Earth’s atmosphere before disembarking and retrieving the repatriation vehicle to descend to the wide steps of Inner Mongolia where China’s Shenzhou Crew spacecraft also made landings.
If the mission is successful, it will make China the third country to bring moon rocks to Earth after the United States and the former Soviet Union. These are the first new samples of the lunar surface obtained by scientists since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 probe in 1976.
The Chinese National Space Agency reported that the Changzhou climbing stage behind the Chinese flag-flying lander module exploded from the lunar surface on Friday. The photo taken of the orbit was also released. Ascending, Earth Sliver seen in the background.
This marked the first time that China had succeeded in lifting a spacecraft from a celestial sphere, while no other country had achieved the strategic advantage of implementing robotic docking in lunar orbit. The ground controllers had to deal with distance and time delays, while positioning a clamp accurately and leaving no room for errors.
The 23-day mission has been on the front page news in state media for days, paired with reports that China has lifted all its citizens out of extreme poverty. In addition to the campaign coup of the ruling Communist Party, the twin stories illustrate the economic and technological advances that China has made since becoming the third country in history to launch a man into space in 2003.
Through vigilante escalation, China is now in the midst of a number of ambitious missions, including an investigation into the voyage to Mars and the development of a reusable spacecraft with little information.
The Chang moon program, named after the ancient Chinese moon goddess, has been exploring the lunar orbit for the past two years, while the Chang 3 rover, launched seven years ago, continues to return data.
Future plans call for American astronauts to bring a man back to the moon five decades later, with a permanent lunar base and no timeline. By 2022, China will have built a permanent space station.
China’s secret and military – backed program prevented U.S. opposition from participating in the International Space Station, although CNSA has expanded ties with other programs, including the European Space Agency, but has helped lead Chang’5 into its mission.
This area, which is believed to be the site of ancient volcanic activity, touched the moon’s shoreline on December 1, Chang, near the formation of Mons Rumker.
Rocks and other debris were obtained by digging up the lunar crust and extracting it directly from the surface. It is thought that these may be billions of years younger than they were earlier, and may provide insights into the history of the Moon and other objects in our solar system.
The Lunar Exploration Program has set up dedicated labs to analyze samples for age and structure. Like the hundreds of kilograms (pounds) of rocks, sand, dust and other samples received by the US and the former Soviet Union, China is expected to share some of them with other countries.
Pictured: This China National Space Administration (CNSA) photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, shows China launching the Chang-5 spacecraft from the lunar surface of the spacecraft to the moon at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BOC3C) in December. State media reported that it was lifted from the moon on Thursday night. (Xinhua via China National Space Administration / AP)