BEIJING – China successfully launched the Chang’e-5 space probe to the Moon to collect samples from the satellite before returning, in the first mission of its kind since the 1970s.
The launch took place at 4:30 am local time (2030 GMT Monday) by the Long March-5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang launch center, in the southern island province of Hainan.
According to state agency Xinhua, this is “one of the most complicated and challenging space missions” the country has faced, after managing to successfully land the Chang’e-4 probe on the far side of the Moon in 2019, the first time in history this was achieved.
“The mission will help promote China’s scientific and technological development and will lay an important foundation for future manned moon landings,” Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration Center of the China National Space Administration, told the agency.
Chang’e-5 is now expected to deploy several modules on the lunar surface to collect about 2 kilograms of samples in a previously unvisited area on the visible side of the Moon.
It will take the spacecraft two days to reach the surface and the mission will take about 23 days, according to Pei, with the samples reaching Earth in mid-December.
The mission would make China the third country capable of collecting lunar samples after the United States and the former Soviet Union previously did so in the 1970s.
Long March-5 already successfully carried China’s first mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, into space on July 23.
For its part, the Chang’e program (named in honor of a goddess who, according to Chinese legends, lives on the Moon) began with the launch of a first orbital probe in 2007.
The Asian country made its first lunar landing in 2013 and in January 2019 it managed to get the Chang’e-4 probe to land on its far side.
The final objective of the program is a manned mission to the Moon, although the date for this has not been set and some experts predict it for the year 2036.