Chang-e'5 returned with 2 kg samples from Moon
NEW DELHI [Maha Media]: China’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission returned to Earth in the early hours of Thursday carrying around 2 kilograms of the first fresh rock samples from the moon in 44 years. The spacecraft landed in Siziwang Banner, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, a little earlier than 2 a.m. (Beijing Time), Chinese state news agency, quoting the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Zhang Kejian, head of the CNSA, declared the Chang'e-5 mission a success.
The retrieved re-entry capsule of Chang'e-5 will be airlifted to Beijing, where the capsule will be opened and the samples will be ready for analysis and study, according to Chinese state news agency. The probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, first took off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan on November 24th. Two of the Chang’e 5’s four modules landed on the moon on 1st December and collected about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of samples by scooping them from the surface and drilling 2 meters into the moon’s crust. The samples were deposited in a sealed container that was carried back to the return module by an ascent vehicle.
The samples were retrieved from a previously unvisited area of the moon. These are also the first samples to be collected by any country after Russia in 1976. The latest samples come from a part of the moon known as the Oceanus Procellarum, or Ocean of Storms, near a site called the Mons Rumker that was believed to have been volcanic in ancient times. Mons Rumker, never sampled before, is geologically younger than the sampling areas of the U.S. and the Soviet missions. Scientists believe these young lunar samples could help fill an important gap and widen the spectrum of their analysis to understand the moon's volcanic activity and evolution. It will set the foundation for more complex sample retrieval missions in the future, potentially on other planets. China will also make some of the samples available to scientists in other countries, said Pei Zhaoyu, a deputy director at the CNSA.
Chang’e-5, a three-week operation underlined China’s growing prowess and ambition in space. It was China’s most successful mission till date. With this, China became the third country after the United States and the Soviet Union, to collect lunar samples.
In the Apollo programme, which first put men on the moon, the United States landed 12 astronauts over six flights from 1969 to 1972, bringing back 382 kg (842 pounds) of rocks and soil. The Soviet Union deployed three successful robotic sample return missions in the 1970s. The last, the Luna 24, retrieved 170.1 grams (6 ounces) of samples in 1976 from Mare Crisium, or "Sea of Crises."
Experts believe, success of Chang’e-5 has set the stage for a new space race over the coming decades with China emerging as a serious player. Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a statement read out at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, called it a major achievement that marked a great step forward for China's space industry, state-run News Agency said. Pei said China is drawing up plans for future lunar exploration, including constructing a scientific research station.
China has also joined the effort to explore Mars. In July 2020, it launched the Tianwen 1 probe, which was carrying a lander and a robot rover to search for water. It is expected to enter the Mars orbit around mid-February in 2021. The US, Russia, the European Union besides India have so far succeeded in sending missions to Mars which is regarded as the most complex space mission. India became the first Asian country to have successfully launched its Mars orbiter mission, Mangalyaan, which entered the orbit of the red planet in 2014, in its first attempt itself.